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How Fidgeting Has Helped My Child’s ADHD

Natalie’s innate desire to wiggle and fiddle has helped her improve focus, classroom behavior, and reduce anxiety. Share your experiences for the chance to receive a free set of fidgets.

Hand of person with ADHD squeezing stress ball
Hand of person with ADHD squeezing stress ball

My daughter, Natalie, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is a born fidgeter, and rather than wasting energy trying to sit still and keep her hands quiet, she’s learned to harness that trait to her advantage.

How Fidgets Help ADHD

Over the years, she’s gained an awareness of how fidgeting helps her ADHD and will seek out appropriate objects (“fidgets”) to fiddle with — small toys or other items, usually with some sensory appeal — that will keep her little fingers out of trouble.

The problem: She can’t focus in class.
The solution:
She “fidgets to focus,” a well-known concept in ADHD circles. Her individualized educational program (IEP) lists the use of fidgets as an accommodation, one that is very commonly included in the IEPs of our kids.

The problem: She can’t stand sitting still.
The solution: Fidgeting helps her survive staying seated for the duration of a car ride, something she really hates doing!

The problem: When she’s anxious, she engages in destructive coping techniques, including picking scabs, worrying holes in fabric, or stretching her clothes until they rip.
The solution: Fidgeting with appropriate objects is a good substitute for these behaviors.

When she fidgets at school, she’s tackling all three of those issues — improving focus, coping with sitting, and redirecting negative behavior into positive finger fun.

Fidgets That Work

She uses all kinds of objects as fidgets. Some are common objects — she rubs smooth rocks between her finger and thumb and stretches and twists unfilled balloons. She likes to make stress-balls (sand-filled balloons) with her psychologist (she’s done this three times!), and he clued me in to the hidden benefits this activity provides: It requires focus and mindfulness, it’s quality time together, and Nat becomes invested through her involvement in the creative process. Then, of course, there are the commercially available products. I have to admit; I have as much fun shopping for those and playing with them as Natalie does!

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