ADHD Coach Connect

How are You Handling Students Who Fidget?

fidgetsHow are You Handling Students Who Fidget?

As a former teacher, I remember the students who doodled.  I remembered the ones who needed something to touch and massage and of course, I remember those pens clicking, dropping and clicking some more.

These are ways students NEED to focus and to keep their brain activated but as a teacher, it can become a distraction, so how does one handle this in the classroom and is it really necessary?

More and more research supports fidgets and how they can enhance performance. shares an article by Roland Rotz and Sarah Wright on the effectiveness of fidgets to focus.  When ADHD Fidget:  Better Focus Through Multitasking

John Ratey, M.D., in his book Spark discusses the increase in the levels of the neurotransmitters (dopamine and norepinephrine) when physical activity is involved.  These chemicals are key players in focus and attention.

Multi-tasking (which incorporates fidgets) can lead to poor performance if certain factors are involved.  Our brains are designed to focus only on one thing at a time.  Our definition of multitasking is really task shifting but fidgeting can help students’ brains zero in on the activity.  Sydney Zentall, Ph.D., of Purdue University, states that an activity that uses a sense other than that required for the primary task can actually enhance performance in children with ADHD.  Enter fidgets!

Fidgets are a noun and can be just about anything so long as it is not using a sense required for your primary task and is usually described as a mindless activity you can do while working on a primary task.  Fidgeting is the activity that includes movement.  Movement is a key piece in activating the ADHD wired brain but often a piece shunned in structured school classrooms, despite the many researches supporting such!  ( and but a few.

Educators often still bind movement with long lectures and figuratively pin students behind desks for long periods of time.  It’s time to officially bring fidgets into the classroom.

Actually they have been there for a very long period of time!  The student, who doodles through the lecture, or continually taps a foot or pencil, is the primitive, yet still very effective, fidgeting of old.

As a strong proponent of using fidgets of many kinds within the classroom, I have successfully incorporated these as accommodations for IEP/504’s to help a child focus and ultimately achieve.  There are many versions that can be used as strategies, as long as they are not disruptive to others and are not using the same senses.

These fidgets can include the doodling of old or more current versions including some of the crazy pen and pencil figures, soft pliable and quiet spongy animal characters or something as simple as a paperclip.

Movement is the key to brain activation.  The uniquely wired ADD/ADHD brain is under stimulated and will latch on to a million things other than the task at hand.  Fidgeting is a tool to keep the distractions at a minimum resulting in student achievement and higher self-esteem

It’s time for the fidgets to be welcomed into the classroom for good!

For more information on fidgets or more support for our ADHD teens and adults, contact me at or