The assertion: “Hand spinners can comfort and relax in stressful situations. They can also help concentrate during a boring meeting, “reads the site of Addictive Fidget Toys, which sells it. Another vendor on Amazon says its products have been “designed to fight stress, anxiety, ADHD and autism [as well as] help you stay focused!” Also cited by many others, including students and parents who protest against the ban that has hit these gadgets in several schools in the region in recent weeks. But does it really work?
The basic principle on which these “hand tops” pretend to rest – that is to say to occupy the hands during an intellectual work, whether by a stress ball, drawing, etc. – has been the subject of some studies. “But not much,” says the ADHD specialist at Laval University Nancie Rouleau.
“What we have to understand is that we all have a certain capacity for attention, and when we have less of it because of ADHD, it is More difficult to concentrate. So when you ask these children to do a school job, they will have to mobilize a lot of their attention to stay quiet, and they will have less to do with the task. ”
When they can manipulate an object, these children have less need to be careful not to move and are therefore able to concentrate more. “There is not really any scientific work that has proven this very solidly, but I think it has some clinical validity,” she says.
The few studies that have examined this issue have in common the low quality, particularly because they involve very small groups, usually around 40 people. And the general rule is that channeling agitation on an object seems to only help children who have attention problems. For example, a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that children with ADHD performed about 15% better in “work memory” tasks when they moved more, but that it was the reverse (About -10%) for children who had no attention deficit.
Routers never tested
Now, if the general principle seems to be true for ADHD, can it apply to hand spinners that cause so much excitement in schools? In fact, these “tops” have never been tested scientifically since, although their invention dates back to the 1990s, they generated little interest until a few months ago. But for having tried it over the last few days, Mrs Rouleau doubts very much whether it works.
To help concentrate, toys and anti-stress balls must be able to be handled absent-mindedly, without requiring special attention. But “that’s not what I saw with the spinner,” says Ms. Rouleau. You really have to hold it between your fingers. The pleasure comes from watching it turn. To the limit, for anxiety, I could understand, since it fixes attention on something. […] I’m not saying it’s harmful, but I’m uncomfortable with the publicity we’re saying to parents that it helps the concentration of children. ”
There are much better ways, more clearly demonstrated, to improve children’s attention, says Ms. Rouleau, notably through meditation – on which she also conducts research. “There’s a lot of serious scientific evidence behind that. […] But it takes effort on the part of the child and the parents, and it is not always pleasant. ”
At best, it can be said that this is “not proven”. At worst, it’s “probably wrong”. The principle of helping concentration by manipulating a toy seems to be valid for children with ADHD but not for others (so the vast majority). And it is very far from certain that this principle really applies to spinners.