In December 2016 an article by James Plafke of Forbes described fidget spinners as the “must-have office toy for 2017.”  However when fidget toys soared in popularity during 2017, it was not as an office toy.   In fact fidget spinners were advertised and sold as “stress relievers” with claimed benefits for individuals with ADHD, anxiety or autism.  So what is a fidget spinner and do they match up to these claims?

What are fidget spinners

According to Wikipedia, a fidget spinner is “a toy that consists of a bearing in the centre of a multi-lobed flat structure made from metal or plastic designed to spin along its axis with little effort.”

Engineer Catherine Hettinger is accredited as the inventor of the fidget spinner.  The New York Post reported:

“Ms Hettinger said she got the idea for the toy, which sells for about $5, when she saw young boys throwing rocks at police officers in Israel.

She wanted to find a way to distract young kids and give them something soothing to release pent-up energy.

“It started as a way of promoting peace, and then I went on to find something that was very calming,” she said.

As the stress of daily modern lifestyles increase; more and more children and teenagers are being diagnosed with conditions such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues.  This has led to a rapid increase in the popularity of fidget spinners with the spinner’s claimed benefits for these conditions.

So what health effects do fidget spinners have?

Children, teenagers and adults say that fidget spinners help them to de-stress and concentrate.  The sensory stimulus provided by these toys can help alleviate the overload caused by environmental factors such as noise or bright lights and has been scientifically proven to work.

However experts themselves are split with some supporting their benefit for those with ADHD, PTSD and autism, while others believe that fidget spinners could actually be more distracting than helpful with focusing; especially in the classroom.  In fact many classrooms have banned fidget toys for distracting pupils in class.

But there are fidget toys that may be more effective than spinners and far less distracting. These include fidget cubes, rollers, chew-able items and balls.

Fidget cube

To date there is no accredited scientific evidence that fidget spinners are effective as a treatment for children with autism or ADHD.  As James Plafke explained, “ultimately, though, there isn’t enough research regarding whether or not these spinners can actually help people from a mental health standpoint.”  Other sources are adamant that fidget spinners do not help those with ADHD.

However the thoughts of someone who has suffered from cerebral palsy and epilepsy (the result of a stroke suffered as an infant) is that fidget spinners definitely help her:

  • In “stare mode” an indicator of an oncoming  epileptic fit.  Absence seizures cause lapses in awareness, sometimes with staring.
  • With her concentration.

So whether fidget spinners ultimately become a proven aid for those with anxiety and other issues or simply another fad remains to be seen.