Toy crazes have swept the nation before, but 2017’s massive wave of “fidget spinners” is a different beast than what we’ve seen in the past. The difference? Fidget spinners are being billed as having an attention-boosting, potentially therapeutic effect on people who play with them. Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was somewhat counter-intuitive that a toy might actually help someone focus better in class, for example, but that’s exactly what the upside of these spinners may entail.
Fidget spinners come in many different shapes, sizes, and variations, but the basic premise is the same. It’s a toy that spins smoothly around a central axis, providing the user a calming stimulus that might take the place of, say, spinning a pen or doodling… or checking your phone for the hundredth time that day. The argument is that having this harmless device can actually free up attention for other tasks and information, but not all adults and teachers seem to agree. Certainly, students who don’t really need the distraction are using them anyway; and many of the versions out there contain lights and sounds that are obviously distracting to the people around the user.
The rationale behind fidget spinners goes something like this: many individuals with attention disorders such as ADHD inherently crave a certain level of stimulus at all times. If that degree of stimulation is not being met, their attention and mind wander, lashing out and latching onto other options in order to feel content. Where we see ADHD posing a serious problem in the classroom is when there is no appropriate outlet for a student to vent this need for stimulus.
Enter the fidget spinner. This device purports to be a discrete, (usually) silent way for someone to create a satisfying perpetual motion, meeting the need for stimulation so that the user can then attenuate to the task at hand. So, does it really work? In truth, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these devices, but many people report anecdotally that it does help them focus, and some even experience a reduction in stress and anxiety. Because of the dearth of hard evidence of efficacy, as CNN Health notes, you’re more likely to have a fidget spinner recommended to you by a psychologist than a medical doctor. However, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be therapeutic for you.
There’s only one way to find out… give one a spin!