If you have a child of any age, you no doubt have seen, touched, or experienced a “Fidget Spinner.” A fidget spinner is nothing more than a handheld wheel with a central axis point. They are sold in a multitude of shapes and designs, but the core commonality that binds them is their ability to be held and spun indefinitely. Lubrication between the joints enables them to go particularly fast, in some cases spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute. These quirky yet simple devices have actually been around since the 1990s, but have only recently exploded in popularity. Even I have had the opportunity to play with them, and I must say, they are oddly captivating.
But I don’t think it’s the look or feel of these devices that have catapulted them across headline news. The reason why these products seem to be so interesting and controversial is because of their categorization as a tool to ease the symptoms of attention related ailments that make it difficult for young students to focus in class. Makers of the spinning gadgets purport that these devices are “perfect for ADD, ADHD, anxiety and autism.”
When students have trouble focusing in class, a potential solution is to offer them something that they can touch during class so that they feel a sense of calm. This in turn enables them to silence the parts of their brain that could lead them astray, thereby allowing them to pay attention and absorb information more efficiently.
In theory, fidget spinners sound like an excellent fit for such a solution. They feel nice when they are spinning, are very simple to operate, and reasonably priced. The problem, however, lies in how they are actually used. Fidget spinners are extremely fun to play with, and that’s why I believe that they are dangerous in classrooms. I have seen many of my students use them, both in class and during tutoring sessions, and what I notice is that the devices are mesmerizing. Students aren’t able to simply touch them while paying attention to a lecture; instead, they want to watch them, move them around, and balance them on their fingers and noses. In short, fidget spinners end up becoming a larger distraction than help. “The spinner toys, in my opinion, and that of teachers I’ve spoken to, are just that – toys,” according to occupational therapist Stephen Poss. “Spinner toys are visually distracting, and I think that’s their major drawback.”
So where do I stand on the controversy surrounding these products? As long as my students are responsible with them, they are allowed to have them at school, but I definitely do not consider them to be helpful with respect to staying focused. I ask that they are put away during class so that students are not distracted. If you are being told that fidget spinners will actually improve your child’s attention or focus, I believe that you are being misled.
Here are links to the articles referenced in the podcast:
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