February 5, 2019

A comfort object serves a different purpose than a stim toy, even though a single item can be both at once.

I hear about the benefits of stim toys more often, maybe because there’s more money to be made from them. I can’t deny that when I find something with a perfect texture for fidgeting, it’s worth the investment to help me focus.

However, anything can become a comfort object – as long as it’s familiar. It provides a sense of safety, which is a harder benefit to measure, but just as valuable.

It feels like I’m sitting in a tall tree, with branches swaying all around, but my arms are wrapped securely around the strong trunk.

It feels like I’m on a magic carpet, with the world whooshing by below, but my hands have a firm grip on the thick rug.

It feels like I’ve been shipwrecked in the whirling waves of a stormy sea, but a mermaid is carrying me swiftly to the shore.

Once, I had a star-shaped eraser that was actually a multi-piece puzzle. It kept breaking apart when I played with it, so my dad 3D-printed a single-piece plastic replica as a gift for me.

To this day, it is both my favorite stim toy and my favorite comfort object. Turning it round and round in my hand feels nice because it’s stimmy, but also because I know each edge and curve by heart – and moreover, because it was made with love.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.