Fidgets are bad, right? Maybe not…

fidget01As a parent, coach, teacher or tutor, you may have attempted to limit the fidgeting of your student. It can be disruptive in a classroom setting and may seem like a distractor to the student themselves. However, not all fidgeting behavior is bad. In fact, this study suggests your ADHD student may require the movement of a fidget in order to concentrate.

“The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It’s exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD,” said one of the study’s authors, Mark Rapport, head of the Children’s Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida. Rapport’s previous research has shown that the excessive movement that’s a trademark of hyperactive children – previously thought to be ever-present – is actually apparent only when they need to use the brain’s executive brain functions, especially their working memory.

If you are reading this and become tempted to purchase on of those new “Fidget Spinners,” then consider that there is no evidence that the spinning device produces the same effect that Rapport was talking about in his study. This may be because there isn’t enough actual movement happening on the part of the student. ( )

fidget02An article in Additude Magazine ( suggests that “Fidgeting must be deliberate to be effective. Intentional fidgets allow you and your child to self-regulate ADHD symptoms in a controlled, constructive fashion. An effective fidget doesn’t distract you from your primary task because it is something you don’t have to think about.”

Another article in Additude Magazine ( gives us a list of 9 “Constructive Fidgets That Promote Focus.”

  1. Walking
  2. Standing up
  3. Doodling
  4. Use Colored Pens or Pencils
  5. Busy Your Hands
  6. Music
  7. Chew Gum
  8. Attention Boosting Games
  9. Set a Timer

All of these “Intentional Fidgets” are easy to implement and with a tool like Play Attention’s Behavior Shaping, the coach can readily see which “fidgets” are distractors and which actually contribute to an increase in focus. Without this neurofeedback it would be almost impossible for us to know which behavior to encourage and which to discourage.