What are fidget spinners, and why are they being banned in schools?

Pokémon cards, loom bands, and spinners; what do they all have in common? You might be wondering that yourself. Well, it turns out they’re all crazes that have swept school playgrounds in the U.K., and spinners are the latest edition to the infamous list of items most likely to be found confiscated.

The propeller-shaped gadgets, which come in a variety of colours, have ball bearings which allow them to spin. Girls and boys alike are collecting them, and – like most fads – they’re being banned for being a distraction in the classroom. Available everywhere online, and even at market stalls, fidget spinners are taking the nation by storm. Their tendency to distract children, and the soft whirring noise they make as they spin, are driving teachers to distraction.

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However, the toys weren’t made to be a popular fad. Originally, they were developed for children with conditions like Autistic Spectrum Disorders and ADHD – ironically – to help them concentrate. Fidgets are nothing new to any person who knows someone with ADHD or the like, and there are hundreds of guides online for DIY-ing homemade fidgets and sensory toys. Things like fidget cubes, kick bands, and stress balls (the latter perhaps being the more popularised) have all been around for a while. I remember being a little girl and my dad bringing me home a tangle toy. But the problem with this is that now, the children who they were originally designed to help, could risk having their fidget tools taken off them because children who find them fun are being distracting in lessons with them.

So, what’s the problem: well, some children with conditions like ASD and ADHD – especially those in mainstream schools – rely on tools like spinners and stress balls in stressful situations to keep them calm, or help them focus on what they’re doing. Generally, a school policy on this is that as long as a fidget isn’t distracting, loud, or the privilege of using one isn’t being abused, they’re perfectly acceptable. A lot of children can be really self-conscious about their fidget toys, and fidgeting in general, having been told off or told to “sit still” by teachers before. You can empathise with them that now it’s a popular craze, something that once seemed to exclude them as different has been adopted into the mainstream in an unusual turn of events.

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However, that’s just where the positive side of things comes in. By popularising the use of spinners, children are now becoming aware of conditions like ADHD and Autism. CBBC’s Newsround talks about it in a statement from this article on their website:

“They were originally designed to help kids with conditions like autism deal with stress, but have now become a popular toy.” – CBBC Newsround

Similarly, something that was once seen as unusual or different is now something that children are interested in. It opens up a conversation for individuals who do use fidgets to talk about them, what they are, and how they help. It can also help individuals who need them feel less self-conscious, breaking down stigma, and raising awareness.

Some comments from the Newsround discussion sum the debate up well:

Emily, 14, from Brentford says:

“[They’re] not distracting I have got autism and it helps me concentrate in all my lesson I got a 6a because of the hand spinner my brain works better”

Jasmine, also 14, adds:

“I think fidget spinners are good for calming. I have one myself but I have it for a reason. So if they get banned I can’t use it when I need it”

Whereas a Year 6 class from Darlington thinks that

“Fidget spinners should only be used for children who have fidgeting problems. Children with autism, ADHD or other special needs. We think they have been banned in schools because children are playing with them and not doing their work. In our class two people like to use fidget spinners because it helps them to concentrate on their work and reading. Fidget toys should only be used at break times, dinner times and home time for people who don’t need them. They should only be used outdoors unless you have a special need.”

(You can read the full Newsround discussion here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/39802246)

The general consensus is that they should be banned in classrooms, use exclusive to lunch and break times. But what are the implications of this rule on the children who need them?

Let me know your thoughts on the debate in the comments, and stay safe, friends. x





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