A new craze is the fidget spinner, the newest in a line of fidget gadgets available on the market. It is a small, palm-size device that you can spin, allowing you to keep your hands occupied while listening, reading, standing in line, or sitting still. These days it seems everyone has one, and many claim it helps with nerves or anxiety. But are any of these gatgets helpful for children with attention defecit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
What is a fidget gadget?
Fidget gadgets are small devices designed to fit in your hand. They allow you to move your fingers without giving the device much thought, whether via spinning the device in your hand or fingering manipulatives on a six-sided cube. Some children find it beneficial to fiddle with one while reading, studying, listening, or watching television. The small movement keeps them occupied enough to pay attention to what is going on around them instead of focusing on their own need to move around. Touching and manipulating the objects provides sensory input that can stimulate the brain and reduce being distracted by sights and sounds around you.
Let them fidget
Traditionally, the approach toward children with ADHD, especially those who have hyperactivity, is to find ways to reduce the constant squirming and movement. But a study completed in 2015 showed the opposite.
“What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better. They have to move to maintain alertness,” says Dr. Mark Rapport, one of the authors of the study.
Dr. Rapport doesn’t think teachers should allow students with ADHD to get up and run around, but he does think that some movement will help them stay focused. According to the study, students with ADHD could perform better on classroom work, tests, and homework when allowed some movement, such as sitting on activity balls. Fidgeting serves a purpose, allowing children with ADHD movement, which might help them concentrate.
Do fidget toys work?
At this time, there’s no evidence either way. Fidget gadgets haven’t been studied as a way to help children or adults with ADHD. Experts disagree on the benefits. According to the article, “Do Fidget Spinners Really Help with ADHD? Nope, Experts Say,” on Time.com, some experts believe that fidget toys can help some children counteract hyperactivity. But others say fidget gadgets are just one more distraction. Dr. Mark Stein worries that these toys will stop parents from seeking help.
Toward the end of l school year, some schools started banning fidget spinners and fidget cubes. These small devices are used as toys, with some children balancing them on their nose or using them for other tricks. Some school administrators feel these gadgets have become a distraction and, in some cases, even a safety hazard, when children throw them at each other or lose control while spinning them, sending them airborne and hitting an unsuspecting child, according to an article in the Washington Post.
The least you need to know
Before sending your child off to school with a fidget gadget, find out if your school district allows them in the classroom. Try them out at home first. Give your child one while reading or watching television. Observe whether they seem distracted by the device, or if they pay attention to what they are doing better than without it. Have them use the fidget gadgets while out in public. You might find they work well at home but become a distracting toy when there are other children around.
Where do you get a fidget gadget?
A variety of different fidget gadgets are available in stores and online if you feel this may be a healthy alternative for you or your child. The most popular items are the fidget spinnerfidget spinner and the fidget cube. But, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on these items. Because the goal of a fidget gadget is to keep your hands occupied, there are ways you can make simple ones at home. And since children with ADHD are notorious for losing items, it might make more sense to make your own, less expensive versions.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.