If you have ADD or ADHD, how many times have you heard that admonition over the years?
Or, if you are the parent of a child with ADHD, how many times have you said it?
It may surprise you to know that fidgeting can actually be an important and functional behavior for individuals with ADHD, helping them to maintain a calm yet alert state.
Here’s how Roland Rotz and Sarah Wright, authors of the wonderful book Fidget to Focus explain it:
The concept of being in an optimal alertness for a given situation is new to most of us, but as we begin to pay attention, we can experience the value of it. We need to be calm and alert for most desk tasks, able to sit still and focus on the work at hand. We need to be active and alert when we play sports, reacting quickly to outmaneuver our opponents. We need to be peaceful and drowsy to fall asleep. If our internal state and the requirements of our external activity are out of sync, it can be very difficult to function and behave in an appropriate and successful manner.
Sensory strategies, such as fidgeting, wiggling one’s leg, and the like, can help individuals with ADD or ADHD maintain the calm, alert state needed to sit still and focus on school work, at a meeting, in a religious service, or even, sometimes, on a conversation.
The real challenge, then, is how to fidget without distracting others. My youngest son’s teacher, for example, did not like him tapping on his desk to maintain his focus! But, if he didn’t fidget, it was hard for him to both stay in his seat and avoid disrupting the class verbally. So, we had to search for some other ways for him to fidget in class.
An ideal “fidget” is small, quiet, unobtrusive, and fairly “normal” seeming so that it does not draw attention. Here are some examples of objects that meet these criteria and can be used as fidgets by students and adults alike:
Textured pens and pencils
- Several of the Paper Mate “InkJoy” pens (try the 200, 500 or 700 models)
- Faber-Castell “Jumbo Grip Pencil” and “Grip Colored Eco-Pencils”
- Paper Mate “Write Bros. Mechanical Pencils, Ridged Grip”
- Abilitations “Pencil Fidgets”
Textured pen/pencil grips
- Office Depot brand “Gel Pencil Pillows”
- Twisting a rubber band around the barrel of a pencil or pen
- Textured pencil toppers
- A stretchable bracelet
- A beaded bracelet
- “Zipper Bracelet”
- “Tangle Fidget Friendship Bracelet”
- “Crazy Coiler Keychain”
- A single side of a strip of Velcro, stuck to the cover of a notebook (either texture)
- A stress-ball (if you can restrain the urge to throw!)
- “Desk Buddy Sensory Fidget Bar” (doubles as a ruler)
- Chewing gum
- A desk at which one can stand
- Swapping a chair for a yoga ball or using an inflatable seat cushion that allows movement
I keep a collection of fidgets in a small basket in my office for clients to use. My basket includes some of the objects listed here, and I have also browsed dollar stores and looked up “fidgets” on the internet to find other interesting options.
Gather some fidgets that appeal to you or to your child. Have them available wherever it may help to “fidget” to maintain a calm, focused state.
Then, let’s do away with the admonition to “Stop fidgeting!”
Instead, the next time you or your child seem(s) restless, you can grab one of these small objects and say, “Here, please fidget!”