While Fidget Spinners are all the craze right now, many people don’t realize that fidget toys are not just a passing fad! There is much more to this “trend” than fidget spinner challenges, games, and collections--people with ADHD and anxiety who rely on fidget tools to focus and regulate know this all to be true.
In a 2015 study published by the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, hyperactive movements associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder were found to help people focus better.
Another study published in the Journal of Child Neuropsychology found that, since hyperactivity is a natural state for children with ADHD, preventing them from fidgeting actually became a distraction and children were better able to learn when allowed to fidget.
So before you remind your child for the tenth time to sit still at your next family meal, consider whether they are moving to support learning, interacting, and/or focusing. If that is the case, you may find this article on fidget toys for anxiety and ADHD to be a good way to shape your child’s hyperactive behavior into something more appropriate.
WHERE THE NEED TO FIDGET COMES FROM
When children are younger, they are just beginning to develop self-regulation skills that help them process their environments without getting overwhelmed. Parents provide children with the necessary tools to help kids manage the sensory processing skills, emotional regulation skills, and social skills needed to develop at this stage.
Maybe it’s a favorite blanket to calm down for a nap, a pacifier to stop the crying, or a long hug to dry the tears. Whatever the parenting strategy, the reasons for supporting your child are the same: you are facilitating their development and ability to regulate as little beings.
Eventually, children adopt those strategies as tools in their own “self-regulation toolbox” and they come to use them without their parents’ help. As time goes on, those tools evolve with your child until they grow up to be adolescents with more refined self-regulation skills.
By the time we’re all adults, we have developed more automatic, inconspicuous, self-regulation strategies that allow us to pay better attention during that tedious business meeting or de-stress in the middle of an anxiety-producing doctor’s appointment.
If you’re adept at keeping these movements subtle, you may find yourself doing something repetitive like foot tapping, hair twirling, fingernail flicking, key twirling, pen cap clicking, or pencil tapping to help you stay alert. These are all ways that “fidgeting” helps us maintain our state of regulation. We may not even be aware that we are engaging in one of these strategies until someone draws our attention to it!
Some people with sensory processing dysfunction, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or autism find that fidget toys offer the tactile sensory input and repetitive motor movements that are needed to help them with self-regulation.
For whatever reasons, their bodies and brains require a fidget toy to sufficiently meet their needs.