Does My Child Need a Fidget to Pay Attention?
Teachers across the country have seen an influx of “spinners” into the classroom.  These are being marketed as “fidgets”, that is, items that can increase a child’s focus by giving them something to do with their hands. But can playing with these spinners in class really help a child concentrate on school?
What is a fidget?
Most importantly, a fidget is a tool, not a toy.  Studies have shown that more movement (such as fidgeting) can lead to better cognitive performance among students with ADHD[1]. The use of a fidget comes from the strategy of teaching an appropriate replacement behavior to help decrease an inappropriate behavior. So, the type of fidget given to a child should depend on the child’s preferred type of fidgeting and be designed to replace the movements that are socially inappropriate or disruptive to the class. For example, a child who chews or bites on clothes may be given special permission to chew gum.  A child who swings her feet and kicks the table legs may be given a rubber resistance band stretched across her chair legs, on which to bounce her feet. A child who rips or crumples paper may be given a soft ball to squish.  Generally, fidgets are objects that can be used discreetly (a common rule for hand-held fidgets is “under the desk only”) and children are taught that their use of fidgets must not be disruptive to others.
What is the process to determine if my child needs a fidget?
If you feel that your child would benefit from the use of a fidget, you should first schedule a meeting with the teachers to discuss your concerns.  The teacher or specialist can then observe your child to take baseline data on both their rate of on-task behavior and any fidgeting in which they may be currently engaging. Based on the type of behaviors observed, a replacement behavior/fidget can be recommended by the teacher.  Follow-up observations on the rate of on-task behavior and use of the fidget will determine whether or not this tool benefits your child’s focus.  If it is found to have no effect, or a negative effect, its use will be discontinued.
So, are spinners actually fidgets?  That depends on whether they improve focus as a tool, or if they are just played with as a toy!

[1] Hartanto, T. A., Krafft, C. E., Iosif, A. M., & Schweitzer, J. B. (2016). A trial-by-trial analysis reveals more intense physical activity is associated with better cognitive control performance in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Child Neuropsychology, 22(5), 618-626
Hand out written and created by Nicole Arrabito , Brooklyn, New york. Purchased By Krisitne Swier through Teachers Pay Teachers on 5/9/17.