Do Fidget Spinners Help with ADHD?

Fidget spinners exploded in popularity in 2017, touted by some as a tool to help children with ADHD focus and concentrate. The simple devices consist of a ball bearing in the center of a multi-lobed flat structure made of metal or plastic. They are designed to spin rapidly with little effort when flicked with a finger. But do fidget spinners really help kids with ADHD symptoms?

How Fidget Spinners Work

The idea behind fidget spinners is that by giving the hands something to do, they can help to channel extra energy and restlessness, allowing better focus on a task. The spinning motion engages the senses through visual stimulation and touch. Fidgeting with a toy provides sensory input that is thought to improve concentration for some people.

Fidget spinners allow for “mindless” fidgeting, without much visual or mental effort. This allows the brain to concentrate on other tasks. They are an outlet for nervous energy and the need to be in constant motion that many kids with ADHD experience. The spinning action can be calming and self-soothing as well. Fidget toys can help take the place of tapping feet or drumming fingers by giving the hands a dedicated item to manipulate.

Research on Fidget Spinners and ADHD

There isn’t much scientific research yet assessing the effectiveness of fidget spinners for managing ADHD symptoms. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders looked at the effects of fidget spinners versus placebo toys in a group of children aged 7-11 with ADHD. They did not find any significant differences between the spinners and placebo toys in improving attention, hyperactivity or impulse control. Researchers concluded that fidget spinners do not appear to have quantifiable benefits for symptom reduction in childhood ADHD, beyond existing treatments.

However, anecdotal evidence from teachers and parents does suggest that fidget toys can be helpful for some kids with ADHD. They report seeing improved concentration, less fidgeting and fewer disruptive behaviors when kids use the spinners. The toys seem to be most beneficial as a supplemental tool used alongside medications, behavioral therapy and educational supports. More research is still needed, but some children do appear to focus better while manipulating a fidget toy in a calm manner.

Potential Classroom Benefits

Many teachers have welcomed fidget spinners as a way to help students self-regulate if used appropriately in the classroom. They can allow an outlet for restless energy without disrupting other students. Rules need to be in place so spinners are not a distraction. However, letting children spin them on their desk or under their leg can provide sensory input that helps them listen better during lessons. Fidget toys may improve impulse control and reduce disruptive behaviors like tapping or getting out of seat frequently.

Used correctly, fidget spinners can be one more tool to support focus and concentration for kids with ADHD. They are not a cure and should not replace medical and therapeutic treatments. But they may have value in conjunction with other strategies. With supervision and guidelines, fidget toys can offer an opportunity for kids to expend energy and settle into better focus if used as a deliberate tactile tool, rather than a fun distraction. More research is warranted, but anecdotal reports suggest they hold some promise for helping manage ADHD symptoms when utilized appropriately.