I recently went online to buy a new fidget for my office (for my students and also for myself) and was bombarded with ads for THE BEST NEW FIDGET TOYS! THE HOTTEST FIDGET TOYS OF 2021! BUY THESE TOYS OR ELSE!!!!!
Rants on the evils of consumerism aside, I found myself using my SLP Voice as I sing-sang to my screen, "a fidget is a tool, not a toy!"
I care a lot about this distinction.
When a person requires a fidget for sensory regulation or for attention management, it is not a ~choice~ to ~play~ with a ~toy~ in class (or in a meeting. or on an airplane). It is a strategy.
Kids might still need some support to understand the difference, and how the strategy can be appropriately implemented. My favorite way to explain it: "If you throw it across the classroom, it's no longer a tool."
A tool HELPS you in some way. Maybe silly putty helps you regulate your nervous system. Maybe a koosh ball helps you move your body in a way that is ~socially appropriate~ while sitting in a meeting and trying to focus your attention. Maybe you pet the alpaca toy that your friend Alice gave you while brainstorming all your new blog post ideas.
A toy is for play. Play is great. I love play. But if we perpetuate the myth that all folks with ADHD and sensory needs are *playing* when using fidgets appropriately, we misunderstand their needs, minimize their experience, and miss the point.
What's your go-to fidget?