What do experts think about fidget spinners used to improve concentration?

Dr. Frank McGeorge investigates latest craze

DETROIT – Fidget spinners are little devices that some people say improve their concentration.

Since the beginning of the year, fidget spinners have exploded in popularity, but they've existed long before the recent craze.

Similar devices have been used for years to help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and autism who have sensory issues or difficulty with attention. With their popularity explosion and appearance in classrooms across America, however, the question is: Should every child use one, or is it just a distraction?

Dr. Frank McGeorge talked to a pediatric neuropsychologist about the uses and limitations of fidget spinners.

"Before this became a craze, there were a group of fidget cubes or other sensory tools that could be appropriate for kids in some cases," said Dr. Jannel Phillips, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield.

Phillips treats children with a range of issues, including ADHD and autism. She said the devices don't really benefit most children.

"Maybe 2 percent of kids that are in a regular education setting may need or may benefit from some sort of sensory tool," Phillips said.

The explosion in popularity has created a challenge for schools. Some have banned fidget spinners, or at least limited their use to during recess.

"When used properly, fidget toys can be beneficial to students who are having difficulties focusing their attention on schoolwork," said David Mustonen, of Dearborn Public Schools. "However, the popularity of fidget toys have made them the latest 'got to have' item, and not all students are using them as intended. This unintended use of fidget toys has created distractions in the classrooms."

"I don’t see the clinical purpose for a spinner," Phillips said.

That's especially true for the brightly colored or light-up toys.

"There's no way that a child could look at this and somehow this would facilitate learning or attention because, by nature, this is designed to distract," Phillips said.

That doesn't mean there's no role for less disruptive fidget spinners, especially for children with ADHD or autism.

"Some sort of other fidget cube would be helpful to better maintain a level of alertness so it keeps them grounded and it keeps them regulated," Phillips said. "This (fidget cube) can be more inconspicuous and used more discretely in your lap or in a pocket.

"What I see is that these have been banned in some classrooms, banned in some schools, and so the few kids that may legitimately benefit from some of these may not have access to them."

Phillips suggested that if sensory devices are banned in a school or classroom, but an individual child has a legitimate use for one, their situation should be considered on an individual basis.

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