Friday 5 August 2022

Fidgeting: the dos and don'ts

Recently I blogged about movement breaks and how they can assist an individual to self regulate. A few years ago, fidget spinners were introduced on the market, then bubble poppers and now , any time you go to literally any shop, you will find many different types of fidget gadgets.

Fidgeting is a form of a self regulation tool that many Autistic individuals use as a means to self regulate their emotions.

We all fidget, regardless of whether individuals are neurodiverse of neurotypical. But how does fidgeting assist us?

Fidgeting promotes movement of the fine, and at times gross, muscle groups as well as provides tactile input, or a sensory input, to an individual.

Fidgeting is one strategy that O has in the sensory tool kit to assist O to focus on a task. As O has said numerous times, "when my feet are busy moving, my brain can stay still to focus."

When used correctly, fidget tools in the sensory kit assist O to become a better listener. Fidgeting assist O to focus attention on the task at hand. Fidgeting assists O to slow down the body and in turn calm the mind. Fidgeting assists in cutting out the extra sensory information that floods the brain.

We have worked with both little superheroes to assist them both to identify when they need to use their sensory kits.

Many schools have now banned fidget spinners and other items that are classed as fidget tools as students become distracted by them. But there are a few points that can be taught to children so that they know when to use their sensory tool kit.

1. Be mindful of what is occurring around the student - if in an exam, using a sensory tool that has the potential to be noisy may in fact disrupt the class. Both little superheroes have a range of items in their sensory tool kits, so they can choose the item that best suits them in which ever environment that they are in.

2. Only use the tools to focus or calm down. This is a point that we make sure their teachers are aware of as well - you will know if a sensory tool is doing what it is intended to do, if either of our little superheroes begin to calm and focus, the sensory break is needed. If it has the opposite effect, the individual becomes even more distracted or unfocused, then a movement break may be needed, or the individual just doesn't want to do the work!

3. Don't use if they become a distraction to others or interferes with others. This goes back to point number one! If those around the individual are becoming distracted, then choose another quieter item from the sensory tool kit.

4. Once the sensory tool has been used and the individual is calm and able to focus, put the item back into the tool kit. Both little superheroes have a large pencil case to keep all their sensory items in. In the past, if an item hasn't been pout back into the pencil case, it has often been misplaced or taken by another student. This has then caused a severe anxiety attack for the little superheroes. They both know now, through losing or misplacing items, that they need to put items back where they belong.

5. If all else fails, and the sensory tool kit isn't working, a movement break is definitely needed. Movement breaks work on the gross motor muscle groups and provide a much more intense sensory input then the fine motor muscle groups.

And as with movement breaks, if you notice that you, or a child, is not focused, please give them a discrete reminder that they may need to move.

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