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By Jennifer Calfas
May 11, 2017
In this photo illustration, people play with fidget spinners, May 5, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
In this photo illustration, people play with fidget spinners, May 5, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

They’re touted as handheld, bring-anywhere gadgets that can eliminate anxiety and even help focus kids and adults with ADHD. But it turns out fidget spinners, the new toy so popular stores are selling out of them and teachers are banning them from their classrooms, may not be as effective at aiding mental focus as people claim.

Psychologists and experts told Money that while fidget spinners may help some people, there are no peer-reviewed studies nor scientific evidence to support the idea that they have therapeutic qualities.

“Mental illness is difficult to treat, and it’s not something for which there are simple solutions,” says Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist and senior director of the ADHD and Behavioral Disorders Center at the New York-based nonprofit Child Mind Institute, which advocates for child mental health patients. “The most frequent thing we say to parents with an unfortunately disheartened tone is that if something appears like it’s an easy fix for mental health difficulties, it’s probably too good to be true.”

About 6.4 million children are diagnosed with ADHD in the United States, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and methods of managing the condition vary. For young children, methods like behavioral interventions with parents, medication or creating friendly environments at school can help. Still, there’s no proven, scientific evidence that fidget spinners help children with ADHD —only anecdotal examples from consumers. Relying on those stories to start using spinners to treat ADHD “would almost be like saying Yelp reviews are scientific,” says Anderson. “If you think your fidget spinner is the answer, you’re probably wrong,” he adds.

Some experts do believe that so-called “fidgets” — silent, unimposing toys like squeezey balls or textured items like puddy — can provide some children with an outlet for brain stimulation to counteract hyperactivity in the classroom. But, says Anderson, “the distinction between those interventions and [fidget spinners] is that those interventions allow the child to move, but this particular intervention isn’t necessarily letting the child get their wiggles out, but rather play with a toy.”

READ MORE: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Fidget Spinners

“Fidget spinners are giving fidgets a bad name,” says Elaine Taylor-Klaus, co-founder of ImpactADHD, a coaching service that helps parents with children who have ADHD.

Dr. Mark Stein, director of ADHD and related disorders at the Seattle Children’s Hospital and professor at the University of Washington, says fidget spinners should not overtake proven methods of treating the condition. “My worry is that they’re very much a distraction, not only to the child, but it distracts people from doing something that we know works,” Stein says.

“It is worrisome that business is entering this area,” Stein adds. “Families with children with neurodevelopmental disorders are vulnerable and want to do everything they can do to help.”

 

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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