A new fad has young people begging their parents to buy fidget spinners with the promise that it’ll help them focus academically.
But some professionals warn that the spinners, which claim to reduce anxiety and increase focus, are actually more of a toy than a tool.Tania Johnson, registered psychologist and registered play therapist who works with children and youth dealing with anxiety and ADHD, says the fidget spinner is actually a distraction.
“My advice to parents or teachers is that if it’s possible, ask them to put it away until they’re allowed to use it at a time where it’s more recreational,” she says
The fidget spinner is a flat three-pronged ball-bearing device that spins along its axis when pushed.
They come in bright vivid colours and even contain lights that turn on while it spins. Most fidget spinners make an audible whirring noise while rotating.
Johnson says the spinner is a knock-off of traditional fidget tools, which do work for children with anxiety and ADHD.
Some examples of traditional fidget tools are stress balls, play dough and fidget cubes.
“Sometimes having something to touch helps us to focus more,” she says. “With kids who have ADHD or who have anxiety, for those children it’s often just coming down to a place that’s calm so that they can then focus again.”
Johnson does suggest fidget tools for some of her clients, but young people are to be assessed before the method is suggested. If deemed beneficial, she speaks to both the parent and teacher on appropriate use of the tool.
She says the most important aspect to helping youth is to get to the root of the issue, instead of using a gimmick like the fidget spinner as a quick fix.
“I’m interested in looking at what is happening at home in terms of attachment, stress, sleep or other environmental factors. At school, I want to explore the relationship with teachers, peers and other staff members,” she says.
An even bigger issue develops when young people who don’t struggle with anxiety or ADHD bring the device into schools and distract others.
“I think it’s a detraction from the kids that do have ADHD in a classroom because there’s so many children using them that we’re now watching to see what’s whirling where and what colour is going off,” she says.
However one teacher at Bellerose Composite High School is slow to write-off the device.
Cassandra Kompf teaches a number of high school courses, as well as GOALS (Gaining Occupational and Life Skills) – a program that teaches students skills to live and work as an individual.
She says students in the program often have learning challenges, like ADHD and anxiety.
A couple of students have already brought a spinner into the classroom and she says it’s helped.
“I’ve seen positive results,” she says, “especially with students who have anxiety because it helps them channel that energy somewhere else.”
Kompf says students in the GOALS program are encouraged to use fidget tools – including the spinner.
If any student is found playing with a spinner but doesn’t have ADHD or anxiety, she says they’re told to put it away.
When asked her overall verdict on the spinner, Kompf does admit that it’s not as effective as other traditional fidget tools are.
“Overall I would say it’s probably more of a distraction over some of the other fidget toys,” she says. “I think the fidget is more of a visual tool, whereas when you have a ball in your hand that’s texturized, you can squeeze it and feel it.” By Dayla Lahring
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