Everyone seeks sensory input throughout the day to remain alert and attentive. As adults, we allow ourselves many opportunities to “recharge our batteries”. For example, many of us drink coffee, chew gum, tap our fingers or feet, doodle, etc. Yet, our children are often not afforded those same opportunities in the classroom to help them stay focused. Some children may be able to suppress those needs until given the chance to move freely during scheduled times of the day, such as recess, physical education, lunch, and snack. However, for children with sensory challenges, the need to satisfy the body’s craving may be so intense that they are unable to focus on anything else until that need has been met.
While some sensory strategies can be difficult (or impossible) to implement in a classroom, providing finger fidgets can be highly effective for children who crave tactile input and need to have something in their hands. Keeping their hands busy will open their minds for learning and concentration.
There are a wide range of fidgets that are available in stores and online. Consult your child’s occupational therapist to help you select what will best suit your child’s needs. For example, if your child craves proprioceptive input, look for stretchy toys and stress balls. If your child craves tactile stimulation, look for fidgets that are textured.
For the classroom, we typically recommend fidgets that do not make noise or light up so that they can remain inconspicuous. In addition, we strongly recommend fidgets that can be placed on a keychain or carabineer to minimize the likelihood of them getting lost, becoming a projectile, or serving as a visual distraction.
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