Monday, December 11, 2017

Do Fidget Spinners Cure ADHD?

By now, Fidget Spinners are collecting dust in bargain bins across America, marked down to $1.99 or 3 for $5. My local Walmart is selling them for $1 each! The fad hit America like a whirling tornado. In April and May, they were selling out faster than you could say “pet rock”. By June, dealers had palettes of them stacked to the ceiling. It was easy to see there’d be a glut. Now that they’re so cheap to get, are they worth it? The tl;dr answer is “Yes”, but you can be forgiven for cocking an eyebrow of doubt.

After all, most online ads for Fidget Spinners on read like this:

Figit Spinner Hand Toy for Relieving ADHD Anxiety Boredom! Helps Focussing! Stress Reducer. Cure Toenail Fungus!

OK, I added the fungus bit, but dang! These sound like miracle toys! It seems China was on the verge of obsoleting the psychiatric industry with these things, but aren’t these just spinning plastic toys? How does a rotating gizmo relieve symptoms of anything, especially boredom?Round and round it goes, and so what?

That was my attitude when my daughter first started bugging me to get one for her last Spring. Then she claimed that kids were using them for therapy at her day treatment school with the teacher’s permission, so I took another look at them. However, I wasn’t going to buy just any old spinner for my girl. Oh, no! Now that I was committed, I had to make sure her spinner was unique. What I bought was glow-in-the-dark orange and so amazingly cool that somebody at school stole it two weeks later. I replaced it, then bought some for myself so I could test them out.

Are All Fidget Spinners Created Equal?

The question on my mind over the summer was whether these doohickeys were of any use to somebody with ADHD. Amazon was filled with dozens of models of various quality and claims, but I seriously wondered if a turd made of gold was any less of a turd.

Good grief!!

Let’s get the dumb ones out of the way first. The Light-Up Spinners, which seem cool, defeat the purpose of what Fidget Spinners are supposed to help with: Focus. The clear LED spinner I purchased strobed, so my epileptic daughter couldn’t use it. It was also so light that it took more effort to keep spinning than other models. $2.80 on Amazon. The Novelty Spinners may also catch your eye. They have designs inspired by many pop cultural icons from superheroes to dragons. I settled on a Golden Snitch. I liked how small and discreet it was. Despite the solid brass build, though, it had a lot of juddering with only two arms, one of which needed to be glued back on after a few spins. $4.51 on Amazon. I wouldn’t waste my time or money on either type of fidget spinner again.

Various spinners

The ߷ Standard Fidget Spinner has the most well known shape. They often work better than novelty spinners. Build quality differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally, they spin for about a minute or two and have a nice heft. $4.80 on Amazon. However, I eventually settled on what I refer to as the Executive Fidget Spinner. I came across Spinetic at Salt Lake Comic Con. Spinetic makes the best fidget spinners on the market, in my opinion, hand tooled, made of metal, and priced around $30 and up. That seems like a lot of green if you bought your fidget spinner for a buck, but these spin like floating dreams. They feel good in the hand, have the best build quality, and give a strong gyroscope-like feel after you get them going. Spinetic’s plastic spinners are most affordable. I picked up a glow-in-the-dark four-armed spinner for $5 and fell in love with it. The four arms reduce juddering, providing a smooth, lengthy spin, and it’s small, so it can be spun discreetly.

Wait. You fell in love with a fidget spinner?!

OK, so it’s not like I take it out on dates. Let’s forget I ever mentioned that.

What good are fidget spinners?

The basic fidget spinner has three to four weighted blades centered around a spinning hub with ball bearings. Hold the device between your thumb and index finger, then use another finger or hand to give it a flick.

My favorite spinner, by Spinetic

Oooooh, it spins. You can probably relate with my initial skepticism.

There is more to them than that, however. The spinning blades make a quiet, white noise while the weights keep the blades spinning continually, very much like a gyroscope. If you tilt the fidget spinner in your hand, you can feel the centrifugal force. Maybe you can see why the spinner depicted above won me over. It spins the fastest, with the most force, and for the longest of time, while fitting easily in my hand.

Poor spinners will have a lot of audible juttering and visual wobble as you turn your wrist while the blades spin. You can sometimes improve the spinning by popping out the middle plastic and dropping a bit of sewing machine oil into the bearings, but generally cheap spinners are cheap.

I tested my fidget spinners in the following areas:

Nervous Energy – On several occasions, I have found that spinning one of those gizmos helped me relax when I was feeling agitated. The most effective at night is the blinking LED monstrosity. Perhaps it has a hypnotic and calming effect. Regardless, the centrifugal force of fidget spinners has a calming effect because I allow it to. I've incorporated it into my coping strategies as a tool.

Focus – Sometimes when I am having a hard time formulating a blog, article, or chapter, I like to shut the lights off, turn off the music, and just think without distraction. Last summer at church, I was struggling with a Priesthood lesson that I was about to give to a class. I had all the lesson elements gathered, but the lesson itself lacked focus and unity. It’s a classic ADHD issue. I went into the empty gym, paced in the dark, and on a whim, spun the fidget spinner. That stupid, glowing piece of whirling plastic helped me focus where pacing alone hadn’t succeeded. After that, I was hooked. This is by far my favorite way to utilize fidget spinners.

Insomnia – I have tried using a fidget spinner as a relaxation device when trying to get to sleep. In the dark, as the only thing that I am focusing on, I find it too distracting. As a relaxation aid, Chinese baoding balls are more effective.

Anxiety – The soothing motion and weight of the spinning blades can have a calming effect for anxiety, but like any coping strategy, it will require training to become effective. I’ve used my fidget spinner a couple of times in bumper-to-bumper traffic when I needed to detach from the frustration, but I can’t say definitively that fidget spinners are superior to other coping strategies in that instance.

Final thoughts

Fidget spinners won’t help you walk on water. You can’t use them as an awesome spinning guitar pick, either, but they do have their humble uses. Whether you find them useful for your needs depends upon you. I rather like mine, and plan on picking more up to have on hand if I ever lose my current favorite. Curiously, my daughter, who started me on this journey, no longer has interest in them. As a fad, fidget spinners are so last Spring. However, if they’re selling for a buck at a store nearby, it’s easy to pick one up and try it out. If you like them, upgrade to a better built Spinetic spinner. In the meantime, here are a few parting points to keep in mind.

  1. Spinning one won’t cure your ADHD. They don’t have any medicinal effect. Anybody claiming otherwise is literally trying to sell you something.
  2. It’s only slightly more helpful than other busy motions that people with ADHD use to find focus, such as bouncing a ball, tapping a pencil, twirling a pen, pacing, talking to yourself, going for a walk, etc. However, a fidget spinner does have the benefit of fitting in one hand and not requiring much skill to get going.
  3. People won’t respect you very much if they catch you, an adult, using one in public. Oh, the looks I put up with for you!
  4. Most schools ban them now in the classroom because they are a distraction for other students.
  5. Like any coping strategy, you will need to train yourself to utilize a spinner properly. Don’t expect it to magically realign your chakra. Do expect it to work well in tandem with your current meditation and relaxation techniques. It’s a tool. If you find the hum and motion comforting, you’ll find them useful. If you don’t, they’re just colorful bits of spinning plastic.

If you like taking things out for a spin, you might want to read my book. There are tips in it to help you help your suicidal loved ones better.