Fidget Spinners: Treatment Tool Or Just A Toy?

Have you ever heard of fidget spinners? Apparently, they have become this year’s leading toy fad.

The spinners, which cost only a few dollars, started out as tools to help students with attention deficit disorders focus.

“Just like relaxes me. If I feel like doing something else with my hands, I have something to do,” a 12-year-old middle school student said.

A fidget spinner has two or three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central core. Squeeze the core, give the blades a flick and they spin. That’s it. With a price between US$3 and $4 and available in all sorts of colors and style patterns, many children can carry around a pocketful.

They were being marketed as a “concentration tool” to help students who have trouble staying focused, such as ADD or ADHD students. But are they more of a distraction than a homeroom helper?

Some research indicating that playing with fidget toys — little gadgets, cubes, putties and spinners — can be effective in improving concentration and focus in students with ADHD.

“If we see students are unfocused, getting up to use the washroom, sharpening their pencil frequently or causing a disturbance, they might need a sensory tool to help them focus,” says Mrs. Ferry, a special-education teacher at Ganiard Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, Mich., who also writes for The Friendship Circle, a blog geared toward the special-education community. “There are lots of adaptive learning tools; just like some kids need glasses, others need fidgets.”

She maintains a wide selection for her students to choose from, and she also helps them make stress balls filled with sand, oatmeal or flour.

Ferry points to one case study involving a sixth-grade classroom in Georgia, in which students who were given stress balls increased their average scores on a writing assessment from 73 percent to 83 percent; those with a medical diagnosis of ADHD improved their results by 27 percent.

Others argue they are doing too much distracting and not enough concentrating on what’s needed.

Opposing research finds that unfortunately the spinners can also take children’s attention away from what they…