Fidgets for ADHD: Toys or Tools for Children with Special Needs?
Are fidgets for ADHD just toys that should be put away at the sound of the bell? Are fidgets really tools for children with special needs to be used all day at home and in class with the blessing of both parents and teachers and on the recommendation of professionals? Does fidgeting really make it possible for individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to focus and do their work?
Before choosing sides about the appropriate use of fidgets for ADHD, one must understand the basic premise of their usefulness and what problems they can alleviate.
Many children can rarely sit still. It is not because they do not want to but because they simply cannot. These children have an uncontrollable urge to move or fidget. Their overwhelming need of movement is beyond their control. Punishment is counterproductive. For many, their brains are telling their bodies to get up and move to help them listen and attend BETTER.
- According to Sydney Zentall, Ph.D., of Purdue University, an activity that uses a sense other than that required for the primary task — listening to music while reading a social studies textbook — can enhance performance in children with ADHD. Doing two things at once, she found, focuses the brain on the primary task.
- In 2005 the book Fidget to Focus Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADD by Roland Rotz, Ph.D. and Sarah D. Wright, M.S., A.C.T. was published. Fidget to Focus is a gold mine of tips and strategies to help individuals focus and stay on track.
- Based on the collected stories of hundreds of people, authors Roland Rotz, Ph.D. — a licensed child and adult psychologist — and Sarah D. Wright, M.S., A.C.T. – a professional personel working with people affected by Attention Deficit Attention Disorder (ADHD) – propose: “Give yourself permission to fidget.” “Restlessness is not just an expression of trying to ‘get out of the fidgets’ in order to become calm. It is rather an attempt to self-arouse to become focused.” So there we have it, a fidget is used to de-stress the body and help increase focus and attention.
Fidgets for ADHD
Fidgets have particular properties that intrigue sensory systems. The premise is that children with special needs, with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s syndrome, autism (ASD), anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), reduce their excessive movements (fidgeting) and increase their focus through the handling of a fidget. Busy the hands to calm the mind.
Most adults can relate to a fidget, as they frequently use their own brand of fidget every day. For example, we often doodle, wind and unwind the telephone cord, or play with our pen. We do this naturally, almost subconsciously, to keep focused, and our brain thinking better. A little boy’s answer about his new toy was: “No, a toy is for playing, this is a fidget, it is for thinking.”
Fidgeting is moving away from its old stigma and now it is considered an accepted coping mechanism to stay on task. Fidgeting facilitates focus for listening, talking and thinking. It is now accepted that excessive movement does NOT prevent learning but actually facilitates it. A recent study has shown that adults who doodle, a form of fidgeting, while speaking on the phone remember mush more of the conversation that others who just listen.
Understanding what is going on in these children with special needs and proactively choosing an appropriate strategy is the essence of the fidget approach. Occupational therapist and teachers agree that fidgets effectively increase engagement and on-task behavior in learners.
NO, Fidgets are NOT Toys!
To sum it up, NO, fidgets are not toys. The chewable fidgets like KidCompanions Chewelry have a rightful place in school. The use of fidgets should be among the accommodations allowed in schools and noted in IEP‘s. Fidgets are a necessary coping tool and a life saver to parents, to kids and naturally to teachers.
What are the qualities you and your child look for in a fidget?