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Three things that can help kids stim in school

Sometimes it’s hard for kids to focus in school. When kiddos get the squirmies and the wiggles, it makes it difficult for them to focus on the material at hand. Since there has been a recent rise in adaptive and inclusive classrooms for special needs children, there are a lot of items available on the market nowadays to help kids fidget to focus.

Many children with ASD, SPD, ADHD, or ADD report that fidgeting helps them listen and focus better. Fidgeting in the classroom is a type of self-stimulatory behavior, otherwise known as stimming.

Stimming, in short, is a form of self-stimulation that individuals with special needs sometimes engage in to calm them down, help them focus, or display frustration. For a lot of kiddos, there are a multitude of ways to help calm and fulfill their stims. If you want to know more about stimming, click here.

Without further ado, here are three different discreet, in-classroom items that can help students stim.


Oral motor chewies help kids who chew on everything. Chewies are made of durable silicone and can be easily cleaned, which is great. Plus, you can just pop a chewie on the end of a pencil so the kiddo can refrain from gnawing on their writing tools in class. Chewies keep shirt collars out of mouths and pencils free of bite marks, as well as provide an oral motor stim for the user.

Chew-A-Roo Oral Motor Chewies

Active Seating Options

Active seating options are a great way to help fidgety kids pay attention in class. For a lot of kiddos with ASD, it can be hard to sit still. For a lot of kiddos, fidgeting can help them focus by turning down the background noise in their brain, so to speak, and helps them focus on the material at hand.

If you want an in-depth guide about what’s up with active seating, check out this article.

Classroom active seating options



Fidget toys are a handheld tool for kiddos that need to subtly stim in class. Fidgets don’t begin and end with spinners, thankfully. There are also fidget cubes, mini gamer fidgets that look like video game controllers, and even little pencil toppers. Whether it’s a handheld fidget to help kids focus when a teacher is lecturing, or a pencil topper fidget for a discreet spin during test-taking times, fidgets are fun option for kids that need a little extra sensory input.

Mini Gamer Fidget

Pencil Finger Fidgets

Hairy Tangle Jr.

Going forward

Remember that inviting these types of items in your classroom can be a huge help if the proper parameters are set. For example, it might be a smart idea if a teacher sets up times and places for children to access the items that help them stim and use them in the classroom. Of course, it might also be a good idea to communicate that these items are not toys, but rather tools for attention and should be treated accordingly.

Dear special needs parent: you are not alone.

You’ve probably heard the cliché “It takes a village to raise a child.” But sometimes, it can feel like you’re alone on an island while raising your child with special needs. You may be wondering where that village could be, where you can find other parents with a similar situation to you.

No matter how isolated you feel, no matter how shut onto your island you think you are, there are always ways of building bridges. However, finding those bridges aren’t always an easy thing. But we want to help you search for places, organizations, and online resources to be able to help you and your child feel supported.

Start with a pediatrician, an OT, or a Special Education teacher

Pediatricians are there for your kiddo. Occupational therapists just want to help. Special Educators are equipped with a lot of resources. They have a lot of knowledge about the who, what, when, where’s, and how’s of special needs parents. Chances are, they know kiddos and parents who are similar to you. They are able to give you great, educated advice about how your child might best thrive.

Asking for help and resources from the aforementioned individuals could be a great way to integrate yourself into the community and build bridges so that you are not so alone.

Find a support group

Support groups are a great thing for a lot of people. The idea of getting a lot of people together with similar experiences to talk about their feelings in a safe, relatively comfortable setting can work wonders for your mental health. Finding one can be difficult, however. Utilize Google and Facebook events to find a local support group.

If there are no local support groups, there are a lot of Facebook groups for parents of children with special needs! Members on those groups are often diverse and can be pretty helpful. Of course, take all of this with a grain of salt, as not all Facebook support groups may be exactly what you’re looking for.

This way, you can compare experiences, get tips about advocating in school settings, and insights as to what your child may be experiencing at any given time. It’s a great way to build bridges from what can feel like an island of isolation.

Keep your chin up

Even on the toughest days of parenting, there are good things. At the end of the day, try and list three things that you’re grateful for. This will help you keep the positive perspective that keeps life upbeat. You’re doing great.

Stimming, explained.

A hallmark characteristic of individuals with autism, special needs, or sensory processing disorder is stimming. Believe it or not, just about everyone stims. If you bite your nails, chew your cheek, or frequently chew gum as a response to an overwhelming situation, you’ve stimmed before.

What is stimming?

Stimming refers to behaviors that people engage with to increase the amount of feedback they are receiving from their environment. In fact, “stim” is a derivative of the word “stimulation,” derived from the phrase “self-stimulation.” Behaviors that help provide more proprioceptive feedback can stimulate the senses, thus “stim.”

What do these behaviors look like?

For individuals on the autism spectrum, stimming doesn’t translate to small things like nail-biting, cheek chomping, and chewing gum. Rather, the behaviors liken to that of hand flapping, jumping, rocking, and yes, chewing on everything.

These behaviors can be relatively pronounced, frequent, and repetitive behaviors.

What’s going on in the brain?

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of readily accessible research regarding the neurology behind the need for stimming. There is a serious need for this type of research in this field, as it can provide immense insights into the whys of stimming.

However, according to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Center for Autism Research,

These [stimming] motions affect the body’s vestibular sensory system (which helps with balance and orientation of the body). Other stims that do not affect the entire body, but which affect one or more senses, include hand flapping, squinting, staring at rotating objects (for example, a fan), stroking or rubbing surfaces of a certain texture, smelling objects, head banging, and squealing or making other vocalizations.

The reasons behind stimming differ for everyone, and further research could provide better insight into the neurological sources of stimming. For some, it may indicate that they are overwhelmed, and for others, it may be calming, still, for others, it helps them adapt to their environment. Quite simply, the reasons behind stimming are just as diverse as the individuals who stim.

Is something else going on?

There are sometimes medical causes for stimming. For example, if an individual is stimming by playing with or hitting their ears, it may very well be because of an ear infection. Before you address the stimming behavior in and of itself, it may be a good idea to get your kiddo a checkup at the doctor’s office.

Behaviorally, there may be several medical causes for stims. In an article from the Child Mind Institute, they outline the following stimming scenario and its causes.

[A] child Dr. Bauman treated chronically refused to go to bed. Every time she lay down she bounced up again and tried to get off the bed, fighting caregivers who tried to coax her to lie back down. It was a battle every night. But it turned out that she, too, had severe acid reflux that caused her distress when she was lying down. Again, treatment for the medical issue solved her bedtime behavior problem.

Identifying as to whether the self-stimulatory behavior your loved one with ASD is expressing is linked to medical explanations can be a crucial step in helping them.

What can help?

Again, the first thing to do is ensure that the stim is not a behavioral response to a medical problem. Once that’s ruled out, make sure your loved one’s daily environments, like their school, bedroom, and home, are comfortable for them. Eliminating possible environmental triggers might help reduce the stimming.

Make sure they shake their sillies out. Sometimes, stimming can come as a result of too much energy. If you want some good ideas about how to get rid of the wiggles indoors, click here.

Give them something to do with their hands. Whether it’s a gamer fidget, a chewie, or a pencil topper fidget, it can help them turn stim while focusing on something else.

If they have a constant need to stim in the classroom, look into active seating options for the kiddo. Children that need to stim in a classroom without disrupting the curriculum have benefited from active seating options, as they allow self-stimulation in a subtle way.

Going forward

Please keep in mind that these explanations are not meant to explain the behavior of every individual who stims, but it is rather to provide insight into the potential reasons and remedies of stimming. While these tips may work for some, they may not work for all.