My attention deficit daughter tires of ADHD coping mechanisms quickly, so when it comes to fidgets, I’m constantly on the lookout for new fidgeting objects or ideas that'll help her focus.
by Kay Marner
Natalie’s learning to self-monitor her ADHD antsiness level at school, right now. She’s using a thumbs up/thumb sideways/thumbs down signal system to communicate how she’s feeling to her teacher or aide. Thumbs up means she’s fine. Sideways means she could use a fidget or a little movement as she works. Thumbs down means it’s time for a break -- a walk to the resource room to check in with Mrs. Carter, or a few Tae Kwon Do moves in a private space.
My experience with Natalie shows that most ADHD coping techniques she tries lose their effectiveness with continued use, so when it comes to fidgets, I’m all about variety -- I’m constantly on the lookout for new fidgeting objects or ideas. Here are two recent finds that had me e-mailing Natalie’s teachers about adding them to her fidget arsenal:
As Natalie and I talked with her psychologist earlier this week, her fingers pulled, twisted, and twanged the elastic-y laces in her shoes. When she tried to stretch a loop of the lace clear over the toes of one shoe, I reached over and moved her hand away. She moved it right back, and started to pull and twist again. When I removed her hand a second time, her psychologist stood up and went to his bookshelf.
“Do you need something to stretch?” he asked, and handed Natalie a long, skinny (not blown up) balloon -- the kind used for making balloon animals. She accepted it gratefully.
Such a simple idea for a fidget, yet I hadn’t thought of it! I bought some to send to school the very next day. (Even at the age of nine, Natalie needs reminders to keep balloons out of her mouth. Use balloons with caution with younger children or children of any age who seek out oral stimulation.)
Another fidget idea in the “why didn’t I think of that?” category is doodling. I came across the idea in this ADDitudemag.com article. Has anyone ever included permission to doodle as a classroom accommodation in an IEP, or encouraged it as a focus-enhancing technique in school? Imagine: teaching kids to doodle, rather than telling them not to! I especially like the idea of using colored pens or scented markers -- if stimulating one sense improves focus, then the benefit of stimulating multiple senses at the same time makes sense to me. Natalie’s school has been selling “Smencils,” scented pencils, as a fundraiser this year, so using one to doodle, or even just for her work, wouldn’t draw anyone’s attention. It wouldn’t make Natalie look “different” from her classmates, which is always of concern.
I recently reviewed some fidgets in this blog, and a reader wrote a comment about using Velcro stuck to the bottom of the desk for tactile stimulation. What other new, unusual, creative, or effective fidgets has your child used, or have you heard about?