Fidget Spinner Psychology: It’s Just a Toy!

If you have a child with behavioral disorders, I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the fidget spinner. It is being hailed as the new go-to treatment for children with attention disorders. Some believe this little device that spins in your hand as you hold it has some influence on the brain that can help an individual to remain focused on a task that may otherwise be difficult. They are also claimed to relieve stress and anxiety.

Dr. David Anderson, PhD is a clinical psychologist who recently shared his thoughts on the topic in a video on the Child Mind Institute website. Dr. Anderson disputes the effectiveness of these devices and refers to them as “a toy” and “a gag gift” but not so much as a treatment. According to the doctor, there are no gadgets that are recommended but there are many gadgets that fall in line with scientifically based psychological principles.

Children suffering from anxiety, depression or ADHD can certainly benefit from some type of kit that consists of items to help them cope with the feelings they are experiencing. A stress ball or soothing music may be included in such a kit. A fidget spinner could fit into this category but such kits are typically compiled according to the needs of a specific patient. Items that work for one person may not necessarily work for another.

While he feels that the fidget spinner has been good for promoting awareness and more discussion on the issue, there is no clear evidence for stress relief or promoting focus in people who have these disorders.

Dr. Anderson suggests that fidget spinners are little more than a fad. Time and money are involved in conducting studies and there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support any effectiveness in treatment of these conditions. He suggests going more in the direction of cognitive behavioral strategies for managing symptoms. This involves the patient becoming aware that they have lost focus and using certain proven strategies for getting themselves back on task. An example of this would be teaching a child to break tasks down into smaller pieces and planning for how long it will take to complete each piece. They can then find greater focus in performing one piece of the task at a time. Such tactics have demonstrated to be successful in studies and real world situations.

The doctor feels that in the case of the fidget spinner, manufacturers have made these claims available to children who are using it as an excuse to play with the toy. He doesn’t think that most parents and teachers are on board with the argument and concludes that these gadgets will soon be a thing of the past.