Fidget spinners are often a resource for parents and children with ADHD and Autism, however knowledge of why, is not so clear as there is little research to back up the scientific impact on such neurological conditions. Parents are often tempted by words that are associated with Spectrum Disorders, such as ‘fidget’ or ‘sensory’ and if this is tagged to a toy, there is a desire to buy anything that will make life easier for them.
Whilst there is little research, there are many claims that fidget spinners help with focus, particularly for those who are anxious, have a nervousness or suffer from psychological stress. With neurological disorders, there is a thought of fidget spinners helping to clam people down, which is why they are often used with children who have ADHD and ASD and also those with stress, anxiety and even those with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Whilst there are many parents who will call for the fidget spinner to be integral to their children’s resources at school, there is a grand swell of objection from teachers, possibly because there is little no research to back up its impact, but also due to the distracting nature of objects moving in the classroom.
Contrary to the above, there are some perceived benefits parents may want to experiment with themselves. There may not be a large evidence of tested theories, but if it works for the child being discussed, the benefit could significantly outweigh the distraction elements.
Distraction from our thoughts and worries
Doing something, is better than doing nothing, as doing nothing, will lead your mind to wonder. Whilst there is not a significant amount of evidence to say the fidget spinner is the answer, it does provide a distraction, which can take the child away from the problem for some time.
Using the focus to get away
Fidget spinners do have the capacity to engage a person almost meditatively, zoning out the here and now and focusing in on something which could provide the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
Keep on moving
Moving is a key element of ADHD, whether using the large motor skills and muscles or the fine motor skills. They benefit from the movement and at a time they are expected to stay still, spinners can maintain order for them. Whilst small in comparison to running and jumping, there is still an element of exercise and physical exercise is a positive thing.
Doing it again and again and again
Spectrum disorders often have an element of ‘mini rituals’ throughout the day. For some it could be larger to the extent of an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and to others as simple as washing, brushing teeth, brushing hair and getting dressed in the same order every day.
Fidget spinners can offer a simple ritualistic movement, providing a repetitive behaviour, giving continuity and comfort.
Fidgeting is normal
So many children feel the need to fidget but without a resource, it is not only distracting for others, but identifies them as being abnormal or different. The trend of fidget resources is growing and becoming more popular, including amongst the neurotypical population. This is helping to normalise fidgeting, enabling those with the need to ritually move, to blend and be seen as part of a similar community, allowing them to fit in with their peers.
If a child is reporting they are feeling less stress from the use of a fidget spinner, or even an adult for that matter, why not allow it to be used, particularly if it can be done in a way that doesn’t distract the whole class. Fidget spinners themselves are less likely to be noisy and intrusive and it looks like they are here to stay!