What Do Fidget Spinners Really Do?

Fidget spinners – the small, ball-bearing devices that can be spun between one’s fingers – have become a popular and well known tool for children with ADHD. Their popularity has grown considerably, because they have become a toy for those without ADHD as well.

Marketed for their supposed benefits such as stress relief and concentration enhancement, they have sparked interest and skepticism. For parents of children with ADHD, however, there is often a big and more important question: What do they really do for a child with ADHD?

The Role of Fidget Tools in ADHD

A fidget spinner is a small, typically palm-sized mechanical device designed for tactile interaction. It consists of a central bearing, usually made of metal or plastic, from which two or more arms extend – with 3 arms being standard.

Each arm is typically weighted at the end, and the entire apparatus is balanced to spin smoothly around its axis. When held between a finger and thumb at the center, the fidget spinner can be flicked or spun with a light motion, causing the arms to rotate rapidly around the central bearing. The bearings are engineered to minimize friction, allowing the spinner to rotate continuously for several minutes with a single impetus.

For children with ADHD, managing excess energy and maintaining focus can be challenging. It has been suggested that certain forms of physical movement, or fidgeting, can provide sensory-motor stimulation that may aid in concentration and reduce anxiety. Fidget spinners are designed to serve this purpose by providing a simple and repetitive motion that engages the hands without being too much of a distraction for the user in a way that might prevent them from focusing on their tasks.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Fidget Spinners

The scientific community has not reached a consensus regarding the effectiveness of fidget spinners for ADHD. Limited research suggests that these tools might offer short-term benefits in focusing attention for some children. However, there is no substantial evidence to conclude that they are more effective than other forms of fidgeting or movement that children with ADHD commonly exhibit.

Fidget Spinners in Educational Settings

In schools, fidget spinners have been a topic of contention due to their potential to distract the user and those around them. The effectiveness of these devices as a focus aid must be balanced against the possibility of them becoming a source of distraction in a classroom environment.

Individual Responses to Fidget Spinners

Children with ADHD can have varied responses to sensory inputs, and fidget spinners are no exception. Some may find them helpful for short periods, while others may not experience any benefit. Observing how a child with ADHD interacts with a fidget spinner is crucial to determining if it has a positive impact on their ability to concentrate.

Alternatives to Fidget Spinners

For those who do not find fidget spinners beneficial, there are numerous other sensory tools available that may be less distracting and better suited to their needs. Items such as tactile putty, stress balls, or discreet fidget rings may provide the necessary sensory input to assist with focus and stress management.

Should You Try Fidget Spinners?

Fidget spinners may be of interest to children with ADHD as a potential tool for managing symptoms. However, their use should be carefully considered and monitored to ensure that they are providing the intended benefits without causing additional distractions. Collaboration with educators and ADHD specialists can help determine the most appropriate sensory tools for each individual child.

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