We have all been driven mad by the child that cant still, they fidget about and distract others, have little awareness on the impact to their peers and look bewildered when you ask them to ‘sit still!’ This area of need, really interests me so I thought I’d share ideas I have found with you all and hope it gives you some new ideas.
The need for sensory input
Children with ASS or ADHD and other sensory difficulties can have difficulty with their sensory input. Wriggling, biting nails, doodling, bouncing on haunches, doodling or moving about gives these children a sensory input, they need it and cant do without it and no matter how many times you ask them to stop, they have to fidget.
What you can do is… channel their fidgeting. Fiddling with a fidget toy or wriggling on a fidget wedge can facilitate the need for the sensory input and actually improve concentration for themselves and others.
Who needs them?
These aids can help children with ADHD, ASD and sensory disorders. It can be trial and error to find the one that suits a child the best but it is worth bearing in mind that any strategy needs to be implemented for 4 to 6 weeks, to give time for the novelty to wear off, the rebelling against the strategy and the useful ness to really embed in with the child’s behaviours.
When to use them
The need for the sensory stimulus can be ineffective if used for too long periods. Use objects for small amounts of time when concentration is most needed or have a number of objects ready to be used.
Toys and objects with a variety of surface are useful to keep at hand, squashy, rubbery, smooth, jointed objects, furry, etc are good and can be inexpensive. Toys can be attached to ribbons or retractable key chains or added to a necklace or belt.
The fidget wedge
The first item I bought (not including the things I have at home or at school anyway) was the fidget wedge. These are great, they are triangular wedges that can be placed on the floor and a child can sit cross legged or on a chair. They allow a child to move about in a limited space but serve the need to move, movements can be rhythmic and in any direction but in a controlled space. I have had children who end up lying over other children or bumping into the child next to them. Often, they have to sit on the edge of the carpet area so they bob up and down without blocking the view of their peers but the wedge fulfils the need to move in a more well-ordered way. (It is worth spending the extra money on decent wedges as cheaper ones can lose their plugs.)
What fidget toys can be used?
I use anything that is small, as I don’t want to distract others in the class with larger toys. Toys with tails are can be swung around like spinning helicopters so I tend not to use these anymore. The definitely do not have to be expensive and I find a collection of my own child’s McDonalds toys work great, we had a stash of hard plastic toys, toys with rotating arms, soft toys and bendy toys and of course it was a good excuse for a clear out.
Things to bear in mind
Often, children with sensory needs, like the feel of things in their mouth, so this may influence your choice of fidget toys. Only this week, one child opened the classroom door with his mouth and he said he liked the taste and feel… I don’t really want him to do this but there’d be no problem with having a spoon in his fidget box… Easy to clean and cheap to provide.
It is worth finding out which sensations, textures and surfaces your child enjoys.
It’s also worth considering if a child has poor fine motor control or weak small hand muscles, you can address these with a fidget toy, squishy toys will help strengthen muscles and enable to child to manipulate objects.
What will you have already in school?
Your school will be haven of objects already, so don’t think you have to go and spend a fortune on a range of toys hoping that a few will help.
Tactile fidget toys
Beads are great, already on a strong string, stress balls, moveable, fiddly and very tactile. Even the counting beads from your maths tray may be used. Other great items are shells, play dough, sponges, bubble wrap, elastic bands, beanie toys smooth stones, spoons, an abacus, blu tac, stress balls, bobbly balls, pencil grips, bean bags, bath toys, balloons, linking rigngs, spiral slinkies, newton’s cradle, jointed dolls, stretchy party toys, sliding toys, pipe cleaners…
Visual fidget toys
Anything that small children look at and say ‘wow’. Sand times and look out for liquid timers, torches, glow sticks, spinning tops, snow globes, larva lamps etc.
Chewable fidget toys
Drinking straws, plastic piping, chewing gum, and don’t forget the spoon to suck on for that cold and metallic taste (they can also be kept in the fridge if it is the cold sensation you require)
Heavy toys can be expensive but you can easily make your own. The pressure is valued by some child as it makes them feel grounded. Weighted jackets, blankets and snakes can be bought but please check the weight advised for the size of the child. I bought a load of soft animal hot water bottles and filled with rice for the extra weight. Fill socks with rice or chick peas. Elastic bungee cords wrapped around chair legs can be pulled by the child.
There are lots of commercial toys for children and adults, the one I would rate is the Tangle