Fidget spinners… friend or foe? Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - They're small, come in different colours, and seem to be everything at the moment, even though many schools have banned them.
Fidget spinners are twisting and twirling ball-bearing pieces of plastic, and for the majority of children, they are just toys.

But they are also being touted as wonderful focus tools for children - and adults - with anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and development issues like autism.

“The jury is still out about whether a fidget spinner is simply a toy, or a gadget that can eliminate anxiety in children and adults, and even help those with ADD or ADHD focus,” said Claudia Swartzberg, chief executive of Top Dog Education. “While many are claiming they aid mental focus, there’s no science that supports the notion they have therapeutic properties. However, even though there is no data to show that fidget spinners are beneficial rather than being fun, teachers, many parents and learners claim they’re helping their mental focus in and outside the classroom.” cited the following advantages of fidgeting:

* It distracts your brain from random thoughts. Fidgeting can occupy parts of your brain that might otherwise distract you from doing a task well, for example public speaking, or even listening in class.

For example, instead of thinking about what people are thinking of you when you’re up on stage speaking, your fidgeting enables you to simply focus on your speech, and nothing distracting.

* It can help the thinking process. Studies have shown that physical movement such as doodling or writing things down can help with remembering.

So, by physically engaging in fidgeting, you’re moving, and therefore absorbing more effectively.

* It acts as a ritual. Rituals can give one predictability, structure and familiarity, which is calming and focusing.

Repetitive movements such as squeezing a ball, tapping your pen, or twirling a fidget spinner can be relaxing rituals.

“There’s a reason why fidget spinners are said to be one of the fastest-selling gadgets of the year so far,” says Swartzberg. “Whether you’re a friend or foe of the fidget spinner, it’s likely they’ll reach their peak soon, much like other trending gadgets that are met with equal controversy.”

Saturday Star