Best Fidgets for Special Needs Students

November 7, 2016

Teachers, classmates, administrators, and parents can quickly identify the restless students in the class. They shake their leg, tap pencils, wiggle around and can be a general disruption to the learning in the classroom. The student who is fidgeting is also hindering his/her own learning due to a lack of concentration and short attention span. Fidgets can be great self regulation toys that can help with focus, attention, calming, and active listening.

According to Special Needs Resource online, research on fidgets shows that if movement can be directed, it can enhance learning. Furthermore, movement is essential for learning because the learner is required to use both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Fidgets and sensory balls for calming and alerting can also promote focusing and concentration, decrease stress, increase tactile awareness of fingers/hands (through proprioceptive input), and keep fidgeting fingers busy! The Therapy Shoppe for Occupational and Physical therapists also states that fidget toys can also provide a fun way to strengthen hands and “warm-up” fingers before handwriting activities and fine motor skill tasks.

There are a variety of fidget toys depending upon the needs of the student and/or teacher. For example, there are calming toys, silents fidgets so as not to distract classmates, chewing fidgets for the orally focused students, alerting fidgets that help with self regulation, and tactile fidgets that can help with students who need to keep their anxious hands busy.

Fidgets are extremely easy to find online and are affordable, especially since many people lose fidgets or need several in different locations around the house or at school. In addition to research confirming the importance of movement and sensory input while learning, learning is enhanced when fidgets are introduced. For example, one case study that was conducted in a sixth grade classroom in Georgia showed growth in scholastic achievement when the stress balls were implemented. The average writing score of the class increased from 73% without stress balls to 83% with the use of stress balls. In addition, the student with a medical diagnosis of ADHD showed the most progress with an increase of 27% on a writing sample (Stalvey & Brasell, 2006).


Resources for Fidgets

  3. Therapy Shoppe (#1)
  4. Therapy Shoppe (#2)
  5. Trainers Warehouse
  6. e-Special Needs
  7. Tangle Creations
  8. OfficePlayground
  9. National Autism Resources