They are beloved by children everywhere and a thorn in the side of many teachers and parents. Fidget spinners have been flying off store shelves in recent years, touted as a gadget that can help reduce anxiety and treat symptoms of ADHD in young children. But are fidget spinners everything they’re cracked up to be?
So do fidget spinners offer any value in helping children with behavioural disorders? Many child psychologists feel there isn’t an easy answer, including Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist and senior director of the ADHD and Behavioral Disorders Center at the New York-based nonprofit Child Mind Institute, who has said, “The most frequent thing we say to parents with an unfortunately disheartened tone is that if something appears like it’s an easy fix for mental health difficulties, it’s probably too good to be true.”
Admittedly, the toy is so new that few studies have been conducted regarding its efficacy. But one child psychologist, Paulo Graziano, set up a study with colleagues after his daughter became enamoured with the toy.
While they can be entertaining, fidget spinners do not help children focus or improve in school. Graziano cautions parents that fidget spinners can do more harm than good because they can distract kids more than help them.
During the study, Graziano and his team found that interaction with fidget spinners caused children with ADHD to violate more rules. Children paid less attention to the teacher, had more trouble staying on task, and could not answer questions when called on.
If fidget spinners seem to do the exact opposite of what the marketing campaigns suggest, where did the idea even come from? Could they be used as a learning tool?
There are theories that in kids with ADHD, excessive movements—their physical fidgeting, rocking, leg shaking, etc.—increase their prefrontal cortex arousal and alertness, helping them engage in some academic tasks. Despite the theory that natural movements may assist this way, fidget spinners don’t inspire kids to move more than their thumbs.
So, the theory is excellent, and the makers and marketers might have meant well, but it appears that fidget spinners do not help children with ADHD focus better.
Parents tend to focus on the negative behaviours of children with ADHD, but studies have shown that these children do much better with positive reinforcement. Give your child lots of praise and attention for good behaviour, speak with teachers regularly about their progress, and get help from a trained psychologist who can offer developmental strategies.
If you are the parent of a child with ADHD and want to discuss treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be delighted to discuss how I can assist.