Fidget Spinners: Distraction or Learning Tool?

If you have a child, you’ve no doubt heard of, seen, or purchased a fidget spinner. The small, handheld toy is the latest craze among school-age kids.

Marketed as a tool for children with ADHD, the small spinner twirls in your hand, helping fidgety children relieve stress so that they can focus on learning. Think of fidget spinners as a commercial version of finger drumming, toe tapping, or nail biting. For a child with ADHD, it’s a means of managing anxiety so that attention can be focused on the learning task at hand.

Classroom Disrupter

Yet in some classrooms, these brightly colored, little gadgets are causing more problems than they’re solving. A recent article in Education Week reports some schools are banning them or limiting their use, claiming that they are classroom distractions:  “According to the SpinnerList, a database for fidget spinners and makers, 32 percent of the largest high schools in the United States have banned the toys or plan to ban the toy.”

Not surprisingly, the inexpensive trinket has become a kiddy collectable; this year’s version of Pokemon cards. They’re fought over, stolen, traded, tossed around, and incessantly played with at the expense of learning. In other words, they’ve a distraction.

“Frankly, we’ve found the fidgets were having the opposite effect of what they advertise,” said Kate Ellison, principal of Washington Elementary School in Evanston. “Kids are trading them or spinning them instead of writing.”

Some students that don’t have them complain that when used at inappropriate times they cause a distraction. And it’s not just kids who feel this way. The Education Week article shared these tweets from teachers:

From my experience, as a HS teacher, students with #fidgetspinners are not being helped. They are being distracted, instead of focusing.

Am I the only teacher who has a burning desire to break every fidget spinner that enters my room? I have maybe 2 who use them correctly.

Despite the growing concern about Fidget Spinners in the classroom, banning them entirely raises concerns among some experts:

Claire Heffron, a pediatric occupational therapist in Cleveland, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the spinners “can be part of a successful strategy for managing fidgety behavior if they are introduced as a normal part of the classroom culture.”

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