This year’s hottest toy being marketed as a “medical miracle” for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and anxiety sufferers has medical experts questioning its validity.
The fidget spinner – a small, ball-bearing device that the user can rotate between their fingers – is being hailed for improving concentration and focus in children, with some proclaiming the toy is “great for anxiety, ADHD and autism”.
However, according to University of Wollongong psychology and ADHD expert Dr Stuart Johnstone, the fidget spinners’ medical benefits are “a little hard to believe”.
“The type of treatment for kids with ADHD is typically medication, which is about stimulating the central nervous system and allowing kids to concentrate,” Dr Johnstone told The New Daily.
The spinner, he said, “is more of a distraction, and with ADHD your problem is distraction … I’m not sure how the finger spinner fixes that for you.”
He said there is some evidence that hyperactivity and constant fidgeting can help children with ADHD, with certain measures proving successful in the past.
“Certainly there have been devices where kids with ADHD put a buzzer in their pocket and every 10 minutes it would buzz to remind them to come back and focus their attention, and [these] were found to be quite beneficial,” Dr Johnstone said.
However, he said there was an absence of studies into the impact of fidget spinners on mental health or cognitive functioning.
Fidget spinners are “very, very different to these things, it’s a toy which you essentially play with, not a proven beneficial device”, he said.
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“Although it might work for psychological disorders where distracting yourself helps.
“Say for anxiety, you’re focusing on something that is producing anxiety, then to divert your mind from that by spinning this toy and focus on it and think about it only, then you’re not thinking about the anxiety-producing situation.”
Dr Johnstone said it could work if you’re trying to quit smoking, using the toy to take your mind off the urge and direct it towards the spinner.
What is a fidget spinner?
The fidget spinner is the latest craze to hit the market, made from plastic or metal with a bearing in the centre and several prongs that spin around it.
Intended for mindless play while working or sitting in class, they come in a range of colours and are listed on eBay for around $2.
The craze is yet to fully take off in Australia, with schools in the US and the UK already banning the devices for being “highly distracting”.
The momentum of the toy provides a pleasing sensory experience, according to user reviews, while the challenge of tossing, transferring and twirling the spinners has spawned an entire universe of instructional YouTube videos.