They are beloved by children everywhere and a thorn in the paw 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 really offer any value in helping children with behavioral 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 not many studies have been conducted regarding its efficacy. But one child psychologist, Paulo Graziano, set up a study with colleagues after his own daughter became enamored with the toy.
What were his findings? – While they can be entertaining, fidget spinners do not help children focus or do better in school. In fact, 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 actually caused children with ADHD to violate more rules. Children payed less attention to the teacher, had more trouble staying on task, and were less able to answer questions when called on.
Where Did the Idea That Fidget Spinners Help ADHD Symptoms Originate? – If fidget spinners seem to do the exact opposite of what the marketing campaigns suggest, where did the idea even come from they could be some sort of learning aid?
There are theories that in kids with ADHD, excessive movements – their bodily fidgeting, rocking, leg shaking etc. – increases their prefrontal cortex arousal and alertness, thereby helping them engage in some academic tasks. While the theory that natural movements may assist in this way, the fact is, fidget spinners don’t really inspire kids to move more than their thumb.
So, the theory is nice, and the makers and marketers might have meant well, but no, it appears that fidget spinners do not actually help children with ADHD focus better.
Other Ways to Help Your Child Focus – Parents tend to focus on the negative behaviors of children with ADHD, but studies have shown these children do much better with positive reinforcement. Give your child lots of praise and attention for good behavior, 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 would like to discuss treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to talk about how I may help.
Chelsy A. Castro, JD, MA, AM, LCSW