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Bonnie Mincu

Senior Certified ADHD Coach

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Fidget Spinners help ADHD adults to focus...

The dubious benefits of fidget spinners for ADHD

One of my readers, Drew, emailed me today: “What do you think about fidget spinners? Can they really help with ADHD?”

I admit I drew a blank, because I hadn’t heard of fidget spinners.As an excuse, for months now, I’ve been knee deep in creating my Productivity Pathfinder course for ADHD adults, and I don’t have much exposure to kids.  Still, when I googled “fidget spinners for adhd” and saw the amount of press generated about them in the last week, I felt like I had just come back from another planet.

What was really mind-boggling to me was how a device like a fidget spinner was supposed to “help” anyone — children or adults — with ADHD.

Admittedly, if someone has the chronic fidgets, it IS useful to have something to do with their hands. A squeeze ball, a paper clip, a worry stone, something they can unconsciously play with to maintain focus on what they’re supposed to be listening to.

A toy that spins around while you balance it?  Well, it certainly will help keep the person from fidgeting, and it IS likely to help them focus.

They’ll focus on THE SPINNER!   Obviously they will be far LESS likely to focus on a teacher, lecture, meeting or conversation.

Essentially the fidget spinner is about as useful for ADHD as an iPhone. It will entertain and distract the user, serving to keep their mind off how restless they might otherwise feel.

There are two benefits I could imagine for ADHD adults.

  1.  It can help wean you off of a severe phone addiction.  If you’re trying to keep yourself from checking your phone every two minutes, a fidget spinner might ease your pain through those agonizing first few days… much like methadone may be helpful to treat a heroin addiction.
  2. It allows you to wordlessly send a message that you’re bored and distracted.  Fiddling with the spinner is perfect in a meeting or lecture where you don’t want your boss or professor to feel too cocky. Make them earn your attention!

And if anyone is rude enough to call you out on your spinner fiddling, you can claim you need it for ADHD.  After all, who can refute that?  It says so right on the package.

So, Drew, my opinion about whether the fidget spinner will help anyone with ADHD?   Possibly in the short term, if it distracts and diverts attention from noticing what the ADD / ADHD person is not getting done.

In that sense, it’s probably about as useful for ADHD as a giant wall between the US and Mexico.

What’s your opinion of fidget spinners and similar toys?

Please comment and share!

Author: Bonnie Mincu
Senior Certified ADHD Coach, Founder of "Thrive with ADD," Bonnie has been coaching adults with ADD / ADHD traits since 2001. She has developed numerous training programs to help with the challenges of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.


    Bob D

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Bonnie! I’ve seen these things everywhere and just roll my eyes. Would you believe there was a billboard advertising them being for sale at gas stations?

    I don’t know how to embed a GIF, but I found this really funny!

    Bob, that link is hysterical! Thanks for sharing it!

    To be fair, I can see where fidget spinners might be applicable for temporary stress /anxiety reduction. It’s just as an aid for ADHD that I’d take issue with it.

    Neal R

    I write a lot of articles for my job and during my thinking/prep phase I have a fidget and it’s a way for me to relieve the anxious energy. I don’t had ADD, but have symptoms during stressful activities (work :)) and they help a lot. My sister-in-law and her bf also use them (both have ADD). They have removed my chewing of pencils and pen spinning. Thanks, Bonnie – great article.

    Neal, thanks for your edifying comment. Fidgeting with an object when alone makes good sense if you need to do something with your hands. It’s only when you need to pay attention to that object (i.e. balancing it while it spins) that it might cause more distraction than focus… for others around you if nothing else.

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Bonnie, there are no words to express how deeply I’ve been affected by your blog! I’ve only read a few things, but they have created such a complete mind shift that the tears shed have washed away my struggles forever!

For the first time in my life I feel understood and hopeful that I can put some tools and systems in place to help me overcome!”

—Michelle near Seattle

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