Fidget spinners don't live up to 'focus aid' hype, experts say

By Sloan Schrage, | Posted - May 22nd, 2017 @ 6:27pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Fidget spinners are the must-have toys of the year, and it's not just their low cost that's causing the commotion.

Many sellers market the gizmo as a stress reliever or focus aid for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or an autism spectrum disorder. But many schools, including some in Utah, have banned fidget spinners.

"They become a fad. Every kid in the classroom has them. They're spinning them while teachers are trying to teach," Judy Falaro, director of special education programs at Quinnipiac University, told NBC Connecticut.

Medical practitioners see problems, too.

"A lot of the patients I see, they might even be talking to me and they're playing with the spinner, and looking right at it, and not actually answering the questions or doing what they need to be doing," said Dr. Rachele McCarthey, a psychiatrist at the University of Utah's Behavioral Health Clinic.

McCarthey said there's no scientific evidence spinners help kids focus in the classroom. In fact, the whirring and abundance of visual action might bring too much attention to the gadget itself, she said.

"Kids with ADHD can get really hyperfocused on things that they really find interesting, often to the exclusion of other things going on around," McCarthey said.

Instead of sending your child to school with a fidget spinner, McCarthey suggests offering the following:

  • An exercise ball to sit on during class
  • Putty to hold and squish as the child listens to the instructor
  • A fidget cube, a gadget that lets the child squirm and wiggle

All three engage more muscles than spinners, she said.

"Because they're all working, their brain then can focus," McCarthey said.

Instead of banning fidget spinners, Utah school districts mostly are letting teachers or principals make that decision. But parents might help cut the distractions by talking with their kids about when it's a good time to pull out a spinner.

Contributing: Jordan Ormond

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