Sit in any classroom these days and you may hear a soft “whirrrr” in the background.
The basic fidget spinner has three prongs centered around a circle with bearings in the middle. Take one prong, give it a spin, and watch as the triangle shape becomes a blur, sort of like a ceiling fan.
Fidget spinners have been marketed as a tool that helps people focus, especially in controlling such conditions as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and ADHD. That last condition is why many teachers find these products in their classroom.
But do they help? There seems to be different opinions on the subject.
According to Wynne Davis’ article “Whirring, Purring Fidget Spinners Provide Entertainment, Not ADHD Help”, fidget spinners can create a conflicting situation. In many places where fidget spinners are sold, they’re touted as miracle toys that help people focus as well as aid people dealing with post-traumatic stress and other disorders. But one expert says those claims aren’t backed up by science. And some teachers have complained that the toys are causing disturbances in the classroom.
“When you have 10 or 15 in a room, it’s just this whirring and it’s an irresistible siren call for everyone else to turn around and look at whoever has it out, and [it’s] completely distracting,” according to Elizabeth Maughan, a teacher in Oklahoma City. “It seemed like one day there were a few, and the next day there were a few [more], and the next day everyone had them. They just appeared really fast. Of course, they drop them, and they clatter and pieces of them fall out and then they’re chasing ball bearings around the room. It just adds to the chaos.”
According to Scott Kollins, a clinical psychologist and professor at Duke University, “there’s no evidence to support that claim. It’s important for parents and teachers who work with kids who have ADHD to know that there are very well studied and documented treatments that work, and that they’re out there, so there’s not really quick and easy fixes like buying a toy.”
So perhaps the fidget spinner isn’t a cure for ADHD or PTSD. Can it still soothe and relax and help with concentration?
An article in babble purports that fidgets are especially helpful when a student needs to focus, juggle more than one task, plan work, and remember information. According to Bridget Gilormini, director of PACER Center’s Simon Technology Center, “Fidgets give the user an opportunity to give their hands or bodies something to do, and allows their brain to then focus on the task at hand, such as listening to a teacher or reading.”
Keep in mind that there are other “objects” that can be considered fidgets besides the twirly three-armed wonders. A fidget can be a squishy little ball, rubber-coated interlinked rings, clear, silky-feeling putty, or a bendable, multi-textured ruler. Fidgets are a source for those who need to focus part of their brain on something rhythmic while the other part of their brain absorbs information.
Dustin Sarver, lead author on the study Researcher: Hyperactive movements help ADHD children learn, has a theory as to why fidgeting helps these kids. “We think that part of the reason is that when they’re moving more they’re increasing their alertness.” Sarver believes that slight physical movements “wake up” the nervous system in much the same way that Ritalin does, thus improving cognitive performance.
There is a time and place for fidget spinners and other fidget toys. The main message is: if you think your student/child does better in school with a fidget, let them have one. Be sure to reiterate the idea of courtesy and respect for others and their studying habits, and to not flaunt their spinner in class.
What are your thoughts on spinners in the classroom?