They are beloved by children everywhere and a thorn in the paw of many teachers and parents. Fidget spinners are flying off store shelves, touted as a gadget that can help treat symptoms of ADHD in children. So can fidget spinners help children with ADHD?
Many child psychologists feel this isn’t an easy answer, including Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist and senior director of the ADHD and Behavioral Disorders Center, located at the New York-based nonprofit Child Mind Institute. Dr. Anderson says, “The most frequent thing we say to parents with an unfortunately disheartened tone is that if something appears like it’s an easy fix for mental health difficulties, it’s probably too good to be true.”
Truth be told, the toy is so new that few studies have been conducted regarding their efficacy. So child psychologist Paulo Graziano, set up a study with colleagues after his own daughter became enamored with the toy.
He discovered that while they can be entertaining, fidget spinners do not help children focus or do better in school. In fact, Graziano cautions parents that fidget spinners can do more harm than good, because they can distract kids more than help them.
During the study, Graziano and his team found that using fidget spinners caused children with ADHD to violate more rules. Children payed less attention to the teacher and had more trouble staying on task. Graziano found they were less able to answer questions when called on.
Where Did the Idea That Fidget Spinners Help ADHD Symptoms Originate?
If fidget spinners seem to do the opposite of what marketing campaigns suggest, where did the idea come from they could be a learning aid?
There are theories that with ADHD, excessive movements – fidgeting, rocking, leg shaking etc. – can increase their prefrontal cortex arousal and alertness, thereby helping them engage in academic tasks. The fact is, fidget spinners don’t really inspire kids to move more than their thumb.
So, while the theory is nice, and marketers might have meant well, it appears that fidget spinners don’t actually help children with ADHD focus better.
Other Ways to Help Your Child Focus
Parents tend to focus on the negative behaviors of children with ADHD. Studies have shown these children do much better with positive reinforcement. Give your child lots of praise and attention for good behavior, speak with teachers regularly about their progress, and get help from a trained psychologist who can offer developmental strategies.
If you are the parent of a child with ADHD and would like to discuss treatment options, please reach out to us. We would be more than happy to talk about how we may help.