Fort Worth, Texas,
11:10 PM

6 Things To Consider Before You Buy Your Child A Fidget Spinner

New trend marketed as device to help children with ADHD

“Just sit down and be still” might be the worst piece of advice a person could give a child with ADHD.

Studies have shown that activity and movement can be very beneficial to children with ADHD and can aid in their ability to pay attention and learn.

Short bursts of exercise during frequent breaks can be a solution but the number of schools cancelling PE and recess has seemingly increased. In addition, children with ADHD are frequently punished by restriction of PE/recess or asked to complete work during these important breaks in their day.

Outside of vigorous physical activity, studies have shown that children with ADHD perform better on tests of attention and learning when they move. The problem is, if it is not controlled, that movement can be disruptive and distracting to the child with ADHD, their classmates and their teachers.

A new class of products, called fidget devices, seeks to solve that problem by giving children an opportunity to have a slight distraction in a controlled way.

Fidgets devices come in a wide range of options - fidget cubes, fidget spinners and fidget eggs are just a few of the options. Most have a variety of actions that you can do such as spinning, flipping a switch, rolling a ball or turning a dial.

Studies have been done on related items, such as stress balls, which have shown increased attention and learning while children are using them, but we are still awaiting evidence on the effectiveness of the newer and more versatile devices.

What To Consider
  1. Will it actually work for your child? We might not know for sure but some parents know that their children just wouldn’t do well with one. Do a Google search for stories on spinners and you will find a very mixed reaction. Some say it helps children focus and act as stress relievers. Other says they are a distraction to not only the child with the fidget in hand, but other kids in the classroom.
  2. Will your child’s teacher let them use the device? Not all teachers will be comfortable with a child having a fidget device in their room. I’ve read reports of fidgets being banned in schools because they have become a fad and now every child wants one. That can become disruptive and interfere with learning.
  3. Make sure you don’t create a battle or give your child an expectation that they can use one before you talk with the teacher first.
  4. Is the device I’m looking at going to cause more of a distraction? If it’s too noisy or requires significant motion to operate, is it actually better for my child or their classmates?
  5. How can you try it out? Give one to your child and see how he or she reacts at home first while doing their homework. That may give you a basis on how it works for him or her.
  6. What rules should we set? The device should be used as intended, in a quiet manner. If the child isn’t using it correctly, it has to go away. Tell your child that the teacher has the right to ask them to put it away. Even once you’ve gotten the OK from a teacher there may be times during the day when it is not ideal for the fidget device to be out. Generally those times aren’t a good time for an argument, either.

So fidgets aren’t for every kid and children should know that sometimes they won’t be welcomed in their classrooms.

But I believe they can serve a purpose for some children. You may even see me using one now and again.

About the Author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.

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