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.
- 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.
- 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.