Quiet hands and fidget spinners

Trigger warning: “Quiet Hands” victims may not fare well with specific details commonly known within the autistic/stimming community as abuse. Person-first language used in some quotes.

Photo of a fidget spinner on a white background/surface

I fell in love with dance the moment I learned what it was and pertained to—I loved how, thanks to choreography, every single second was sorted out for me. Improvising last-minute, with little or no thought at all, was my least-favorite thing. Most of all, despite all my clumsiness, every single step was a way of stimming without drawing “bad” attention to myself—whether I was a freshman in the middle of the toilet aisle at Home Depot clogging while my mom was searching for a new toilet seat or a second-grader in the bleachers moving my hands and feet in small motions to practice for the routine at halftime instead of watching the football game, even though Dillon (a guy who rode the bus, got off on my street and my crush) was playing.

At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing was stimming, or even that my stimming was stimming, because I was a victim of “Quiet Hands”, a monstrosity in and of itself. All I knew, before all this self-awareness regarding my autism, was that I had tics because of Tourette’s syndrome, which I had to perform repeatedly or else I’d go mad—but I also knew that, in doing them, I’d suffer consequences: branded forever as the weirdest girl in school; held down by doctors; and punished via hand-slapping, hand-holding, finger-bending and/or having to sit on my hands until I could be still.

When I first learned of the term “Quiet Hands”, I thought it meant stimming as long as no noise was made, but that’s not the whole truth: in actuality, “Quiet Hands” means not doing anything with your hands, or body in general, deemed a distraction and/or abnormal to a non-autistic person. It means not stimming, even though stimming is an important coping mechanism for autistics, and it’s taught by “autism professionals” to be an “essential life skill” (trigger warning: whole freaking ableist-raging blog I’m about to link without any proper anchor text, due to my inability to think up something more worthy than the basic-ass “here”: here) to sit still, keep our hands at our sides whilst we walk, and other neurotypical-as-fuck monstrosities.

I prefer not to share this part of life with anyone—to keep it so locked up that, save for really horrendous days, I can pretend such things never happened to me and such pain—read: literally beating atypical coping mechanisms out of a person—doesn’t exist.

But it does exist—and it hurts greater than any pain I can imagine. The idea that even a teacher would encourage other teachers to teach their autistic students how to be allistic, as if it’s possible to tear down and rebuild the human software that is a person, is more revolting than the trend that is fidget spinners with able-bodied, might-as-well-be-neurotypical kids, but I can’t fight that and come out OK—come out untainted. I’ve tried—in the nicest, most informative ways possible—to tell self-proclaimed “autism teachers” (ugh, GAG) how and why encouraging “Quiet Hands” and their need for autistics to sit still, not rock and/or sway—and so on—is flat-out abuse, but because I’m an autistic adult, my voice doesn’t matter to them. It doesn’t matter how the elders in my life failed me—from guardians and teachers to doctors and counselors—to them, because they’re taught about autism through resources and research from Autism $peaks, an organization which steals from and threatens autistic adults, ignores autistic adults, and pretends we don’t fucking exist.

So I’ll let someone else fight the great fight against the teachers, and I’ll contribute to the fight against the fidget spinners trend—because it’s something I’m capable of.

I live a life wherein such behaviors as stimming are deemed pathological by allistic and potentially neurotypical members of society, which must be destroyed in order for me—or anyone else like me—to be a proper citizen of society, for without such destruction, I may not be able to “function”.

Now, everywhere I look, I see teachers and parents and doctors and teens and cousins—all allistic, of course—talking about fidget spinners, be it pro-fidget spinners or not. It wasn’t okay when people who needed fidget toys used them in public, but it’s A-OK for people who don’t necessarily need them—but have them anyway because they’re “in”—to use them in public.

Parents are defending their able-bodied kids’ fidget toys!

“I don’t understand why kids with autism [sic] can have fidget toys in the classroom and my son can’t, so as long as the special kids get to have toys, I’ll defend my son for having them.”

They want special accommodations for their kids who are jealous of a COPING MECHANISM instead of fucking parentingUP and teaching their kids some fucking compassion and empathy.

This behavior is OK, because non-disabled people are using them.

Able-bodied people are always stepping over us, using their privilege against us as if we’re just annoying little ants, trying our hardest to move a chunk of a granola bar back home by ourselves—as if we’re supposed to be able to, even though the chunk is over 10 times our size and 500 percent beyond our capabilities.

I like how having fidget spinners is no longer stare-worthy, but I loathe the negativity and destruction it’s brought upon those who need them.

The people who need fidget toys are no longer warranted that special accommodation because they’re a distraction, schools have banned them.

Teachers are “so over” their students having “stupid toys” in the classroom—teachers I know, whose statuses I’ve refrained from commenting on, because last time I defended the behavior of autistics I’d never even met didn’t go so well—and how does one autistic individual, who’s already broken-hearted over allistics, compete against a whole flock of them whose only experience regarding autism is not through their bodies, but through children, students, spouses and/or other relatives?

I don’t.

I can’t.

I know allistics love toting around how much “can’t never could”, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes people really fucking can’t, and there’s nothing remotely problematic about that.

Moreover, ignorant (re: uneducated) allistics remain such because they don’t care to educate themselves—and you can’t educate an ignorant person who doesn’t understand their stance, nor can you force someone to acknowledge their privilege when they don’t think they have it—especially when such a privilege deems them the “superior” members of the species.

It’s “Quiet Hands” all over again, and no one ignorant about their original purpose or the harm of “Quiet Hands” gives a fuck about it—and I can’t help wondering: What are they going to take from us next?

This post was loosely inspired by a post on Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, which I read the first paragraph of before remembering I’d intended to write my own post regarding the trend ages ago. There are some similarities, but I think Aiyana’s post is better articulated than my own.

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Comments on this post

Edel’s gravatar

Honestly, you hit the nail on the head! I see this happens a lot nowadays. So many things are taken away from minorities and appropriated or vilify them like this. I don’t understand this craze or even how it became a craze but it’s extremely disheartening that autistic people or other people who genuinely benefit from these gadgets are thrown under the bus for it.