Fidget Spinners: Distraction or Necessity?

On a recent trip to visit family, my 6-year-old grand daughter asked my wife if she would buy her a fidget spinner. Apparently my daughter, had refused to buy her one, explaining that it was just another piece of plastic to add to her already abundant pile of toys. She also cited that fidget spinners have been banned from public schools and deemed a distraction for most children. However, despite this criticism, Autism File recently explained how these handy gadgets may actually benefit children on the spectrum.

Fidget Spinners

According to the article, "Fidget spinners serve as a mesmerizing and entertaining diversion for most students. They are easy to use and the user is required to visually monitor the gadget as is spins, especially when trying to master certain tricks. There is a meditative, mindfulness quality in watching one of these spin. For kids, teens and adults on the spectrum, the fidget spinner is likely to be appealing with its repetitive, constant spinning."

For children without learning disabilities, teachers and parents have found that the fixation on these toys actually takes their attention away from learning and have become the ultimate distraction - with many schools banning them. But, for individuals with ADHD and other disabilities, experts insist that this newest fad is actually a valuable tool, helping to keep these kids focused and calm.

Many spinners are marketed as aides for individuals with anxiety, autism and ADHD. And, while there may not be enough research to prove that focus tools work, there is a ton of anecdotal evidence that supports the argument that they do.

Five Fidget Spinner Benefits:

  • Tame nervous energy- When nerves take over, we tend to subconsciously bite nails, pace, and endlessly tap.  Spinners give our hands something constructive to do when we feel nervous.
  •  Decrease anxiety- Fidgets can take away stress and instead re-direct it to the the movement of the spinner.
  • Restore control - We cannot control all the factors that surround high pressure situations, which can cause great anxiety for many.  Spinners restore some control back to the individual during perceived “out of control” situations, empowering them with more confidence and security.
  • Provide calming visual stimulation- The movement of the spinners are predictable in their direction and speed, making them calming to the eye.  Again, when situations feel out of control, we find security in predictable, reliable objects such as these.
  • Help with self-expression- Studies have shown that physical movement (similar to fidgeting) can in many ways assist with cognitive activities such as doodling with thinking and writing things down with remembering.

At the end of the day, there is no concrete, scientific evidence that fidget spinners actually help children with ADHD, anxiety or autism. However many of us medical professionals and teachers alike have heard stories about children who have developed a laser-like focus when in possession of these new gadgets.  Effective focus tool or harmless entertainment? What's your take on the issue?