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Fidgeting Strategies for Kids

Manage Fidgeting in the Classroom and at Home with These Strategies


Fidgeting is a common symptom of neurodevelopment disorders such as ADHD, processing disorders, learning disabilities and Asperger syndrome (ASD). It occurs when your child carries out tasks that are not interesting enough to sustain his or her focus. The additional sensory-motor input gained through fidgeting stimulates your child’s brain, allowing him or her to focus on the task at hand.

Why Does My Child Fidget?

Although scientists have developed different explanations for why children with neurodevelopment disorders fidget, they do not know conclusively why fidgeting occurs. Some think that these children fidget to satisfy their brain’s need for stimulation. Others believe that their brains are incapable of inhibiting the urge to fidget. Implementing certain strategies can help manage the need to fidget so that it no longer interferes with your child’s school performance or disrupt the rest of the class.

How Can I Reduce Fidgeting in the Classroom?

Reducing fidgeting and restless behavior in the classroom involves activating the brain enough to sustain a child’s interest without conflicting with the primary task. Teachers can adopt a range of strategies to help manage fidgeting and improve his or her performance in the classroom. Depending on your child’s specific needs, these may involve:

Providing Fidget Objects

Fidget objects that use a sense other than the one required for the primary task at hand may enhance your child’s focus. Fidgets are based on various modalities: visual, auditory, tactile, movement, taste, or smell. As different tasks require different fidgets, it is important to select fidget objects that do not compete for your child’s resources or distract his or her peers.  For example, soothing background music played through headphones may enable your child to concentrate better during writing tasks but may disturb his or her focus during listening tasks.

Incorporating Movement into Lessons

Providing opportunities for physical movement by alternating between sitting and standing in the classroom, for example, will satisfy your child’s need for movement and increase his or her focus during periods of restlessness. It can also benefit your child’s peers, too. Studies show that movement in class improves motivation and engagement in children whether or not they have neurodevelopment disorders.

Providing Frequent Breaks

Children with sensory processing disorders have short attention spans and may only be able to focus on a classroom activity for five or ten minutes at a time, particularly if they find it boring or difficult and do not have constant adult supervision to stay on task. Short, manageable activities with ample downtime in between may help reduce his or her fidgeting and sensory issues throughout the school day.

Managing learning disorders, fidgeting and ADHD in the classroom is no easy task. Work with your child's teacher to implement appropriate fidgeting strategies and your child will cope better in academic and social environments.

Reducing or Eliminating the Need to Fidget

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