ADHD and Fidgeting

 
This is my second post in the ADHD Tips for Parents series.  I started off by posting an ADHD Tips Infographic that offered alternatives to ADHD habits that are unsafe, unhealthy or simply annoying to others.  The ADHD brain tends to have an understimulated frontal lobe, where decision making, planning, and organizing happens.  People with ADHD naturally choose activities and habits to help stimulate that area of the brain.  Noisy fidgeting is very common, things like tapping feet, clicking pens, cracking knuckles, and tends to irritate others. 




What is appropriate fidgeting?

The book Fidget to Focus by Roland Rotz & Sarah Wright gives a detailed strategy for using appropriate fidget strategies to manage ADHD symptoms.  Fidgeting is obviously helpful for the ADHD brain, what is important is to make sure that it is appropriate fidgeting.  Appropriate strategies, according to Rotz & Wright, are ways of fidgeting that do not bother other people, and do not distract from the main task at hand.  

For example, a child or college student may be able to focus better while playing with a toy or object, but if it takes away from a writing assignment, it is not an appropriate strategy.  However, background music, that is either very familiar or without lyrics, might help the child focus on the writing assignment.

How to choose appropriate fidgets

  • First pick the right type of fidget

  • Visual: visual reminders, such as a timer with a visual cue
  • Auditory: background music, white noise, or audiobooks
  • Tactile: textured toys or objects, weighted blankets
  • Movement: sitting on an exercise ball while studying or pacing while on the phone
  • Smell or taste:  aroma therapy that is calming, like lavender, or energizing, like cinnamon.

  • Next make sure that the fidget doesn’t distrack from the task

  • Pair auditory fidgets with movement or visual tasks, example: listen to music while cleaning bedroom or reading a textbook
  • Pair movement fidgets with writing, visual or auditory tasks: sit on an exercise disc or spinning a keyring fidget in class
  • Pair visual fidgets with tedious, quiet tasks: use a timer with a visual countdown when taking a quiz or a test

  • Don’t use strategies that engage the same sense as the task

  • Don’t pair auditory music with listening to the teacher
  • Don’t pair a visual strategy when a child needs to watch the board in class

In a future post, I’ll share my favorite fidgets.  What successful fidget strategies have you or your kids tried?  Let me know in the comments.

(Photo from Top Left: Pencil Fidgets by Abilitations; The Ultimate Fidget by Sensory University; Therapy Tangle by Tangle Creations; Balance Cushion by Isokinetics)

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