By now we’ve all seen or heard of these new toys called fidget spinners. You, your kids or somebody you know most likely has one. Within the past few months, these spinning gadgets have taken the country by storm.
They look like a toy, but they are sold online as antidotes for people who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Not everybody is buying into that claim though. Some schools have already started banning them for being a distraction in the classroom.
The fidget spinner falls into a much larger class of fidget widgets. There is no designated age group for these relatively cheap gadgets, which some claim can even help a person quit smoking or better manage stress and anxiety-related issues.
THE CLAIM: Fidget spinners can help alleviate ADD and ADHD symptoms
First Coast News spoke with Psychologist Tracy Alloway, who specializes in working memory, to get her professional opinion on these claims.
“I think a lot of people want to say that because you are fidgeting, because you are moving, it’s great for kind of controlling the attention, it’s great for even alleviating ADHD symptoms and I really want to caution against that,” said Alloway.
Spinning is not the same thing as squirming and the two should not be confused, according to Alloway. The isolated movement of spinning, clicking or rolling something with your hand isn’t the kind of movement that Alloway says helps people who suffer from ADHD.
“You’re just holding a piece of plastic in your hand or a piece of metal in your hand and you’re spinning it,” Alloway said. “And actually, it could have the counter affect where it’s shifting your attention away from your lesson, what you need to be focused on and instead looking at this toy.”
How To Use A Fidget Spinner In The Classroom pic.twitter.com/DRKdyOOmnn— TeachThought (@TeachThought) June 1, 2017
From the research that she has seen, movement of the entire body is what helps cognitive function in people who suffer from attention deficit disorders. Alloway says there is a definite relationship between how much a person with ADHD moves and how good their working memory is.
“If you have ADHD, it’s great to move, and that leads to better working memory because you’re able to kind of shift your working memory to focus on the lesson instead of trying to tell yourself, stop moving, stop fidgeting or wiggling around."
Alloway recommends parents look towards balance balls or stand-up desks to help their kids cope with ongoing issues related to ADHD, something that allows the person to move around freely.
She says fidget spinners, however, could be useful for relieving stress and anxiety, similar to the way breathing exercises work.
“I think they may be more to that claim because in this way to alleviate stress and anxiety, you’re trying to shift your focus away from the external and narrow it down into a single object."
As far as helping with autism though, Alloway says it all depends on the type of repetitive behavior that the individual is suffering with. If the individual has an affinity with a specific toy or object they like to hold, the fidget spinner could be a good substitute, according to Alloway.
FALSE: While fidget spinners may be useful as stress or anxiety relievers, there is not enough evidence currently to support the claim that they are a remedy or form of therapy for those who suffer from ADD or ADHD. First Coast News can verify that this claim is false.
“I think thumbs up if you are using it as a great new toy, because you’re actually getting the kids to play with each other rather than just engaging individually looking at a screen,” Alloway said. “But if you want to look at more as a therapy or as a treatment to alleviate some of these symptoms, the science is still out.”