The popularity of fidget spinners has skyrocketed over the last few months and many schools have made the decision to ban them for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. In this blog, we’ll discuss, what fidget spinners are, if they can help, and what to do if they’ve been banned at your child’s school.

What are fidget spinners?

A fidget spinner is a three-pronged toy with a weighted disc in the center that allows it to spin around like a top.

The toy was originally created for children with ADHD, autism and other learning disabilities to help them expend energy quietly and better focus in the classroom.

Why are schools banning them?

Fidget spinners have become a must-have toy for kids whether they have attention difficulties or not. Teachers have complained that a classroom full of children playing with fidget spinners during a lesson can be distracting for both the teacher and the students.

This brings us to the critical question:  Is the spinner functioning as a “fidget” (a good thing) or as a “toy” (it has its place, but not in the classroom).

Do they actually help children with ADHD and other learning disabilities?

There are currently no scientific studies that back the claim that fidget spinners benefit special needs children or help them to focus, but there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence from parents saying that these gadgets do help serve as an outlet for excess energy.

Fidgeting is common in ADHD individuals.  A fidget is best defined as some additional sensory-motor activity seems to improve the ability to focus on the topic at hand.  There are many forms this could take:

  • A manual fidget (e.g. squeezing a stress ball).
  • An oral fidget (e.g. chewing gum).
  • A proprioceptive fidget (e.g. a balancing cushion).
  • An auditory fidget (e.g. background music, with earphones if used in the classroom).
  • Some people think better when they are standing or pacing rather than sitting — same idea as a fidget.

There are 2 important points:

1) If you are paying attention to the “fidget”, it is no longer a fidget, it is a toy.

2) The fidgeting must be respectful, not disturbing to other people.

What should you do if fidget spinners have been banned at your child’s school?

If fidget spinners have been banned at your child’s school, but you’ve found that it helps them focus, we recommend talking to the teacher. There may be exceptions for children with diagnosed learning disabilities, especially if the need for a “fidget” is in a small group or with individual instruction.  As noted above, there are many things that can be used as a “fidget” that will not be disruptive to the other children in the class.  It may be worthwhile for parent, teacher and child to brainstorm this problem to find a mutually acceptable alternative.

There is an excellent book on the topic of “fidgets” called Fidget to Focus, by Roland Rotz and Sarah Wright, that will be helpful in understanding how a higher level of stimulation can help an ADD/ADHD brain.

If you feel like your child is struggling to focus in the classroom, there are a number of different things that can help. Contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss a treatment plan for your child.