An Autistic Person’s Perspective on Fidget Toys | Autism Awareness Month 2017

an autistic person's perspective on fidget toys

I’ve wanted to write a post about self-stimulatory behaviour and stim-related toys for a while now, and the latest crazes have offered me the perfect opportunity.

What are these crazes, you ask? The spinner toy and the fidget cube, of course! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ll have seen pictures of these on social media in recent weeks. These toys have opened up a once-exclusive market, aimed towards autistic people, and people with ADHD, anxiety and similar disorders, to anyone who wishes to own one.

I feel like this is a step in the right direction. With fidget toys becoming an acceptable way of holding concentration, minorities who need these toys will no longer be looked at as ‘weird’ or as non-conforming individuals.

However, there have been some people who disagree with the acceptance of fidget toys. With fidget spinners and fidget cubes. in particular, becoming international sensations for people everywhere, some teachers claim they offer more of a distraction than a concentration aid.

In a way, I can understand where these teachers are coming from. There is always the possibility that these toys are being used incorrectly by people who feel their original use is boring or unoriginal. You’re also going to have the children who use these tools to purposely frustrate their teachers.

Does that mean that those who spoil it for others should lead to them being banned in schools everywhere, though?

I don’t think so. I believe that they have their place in every environment, even for people who may not fit the target criteria. After all, who has the right to police an industry like this? Who is to say that these tools don’t help neurotypical people in the same way as neurodiverse ones?

Although neurotypical people may not have the need to stim in the same way as neurodiverse people, they still do it. Ever fiddled with a piece of blue-tac, or bitten the end of a pencil repeatedly? Congratulations, you could qualify for a fidget cube! All these toys are doing is offering more ways of fidgeting or stimming for neurodiverse and neurotypical people alike.

I’ve definitely had experience of neurotypical people benefiting from fidget toys in my own life, too.

For substance, I’ve been carrying a tangle toy around in my college bag for the last year and a half. I haven’t always been confident in using it, but if I need it, it’s the first thing I reach for now.

There have been times when friends have been curious about it, or I have offered it to them to try out. Many of them have commented that it has helped them to concentrate, or could see how it would do.

Although tangle toys aren’t the latest craze, they still hold the same purpose. I use mine to regulate sensory input, and when I’m very anxious. I’m sure many people use the spinner fidget toy and fidget cube for the same reasons.

In reality, a lot of neurotypical people struggle with concentration problems. There have been many studies into this, which suggest that people can concentrate anywhere between seven and twenty minutes at a time. If there are toys out there intended to lengthen the amount of time someone can concentrate for, surely that’s a good thing?

I’d love to know what other people’s opinions on fidget toys are in the comments below!

Thank you for reading and until next Saturday,


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45 thoughts on “An Autistic Person’s Perspective on Fidget Toys | Autism Awareness Month 2017

  1. It’s great that you write about this and that you are sharing your thoughts with us. If those toys are helping to the person who’s using it – that’s very good then. Why would someone have a problem with that?

    1. Thank you! I definitely see where people are coming from when they say it’s a distraction, but for some people, it’s a necessary one. I know there would be some lessons I wouldn’t take in if it wasn’t for the help of my tangle at times!

  2. Yep, I’ve lived in a box. I had to google what these are haha! Didn’t for sure exist when I was a kid. It was interesting to read about these, thanks for all the information.

    1. Haha, fair enough! As far as I know, people only really grew interested in them with the latest crazes in the last few months, so I’m sure you aren’t the only one who didn’t know what they were, don’t worry.

  3. Great post! I haven’t heard of the fidget spinner but I’ve seen the fidget cube advertised online and it seems really good. I definitely agree with you that the different fidget items are a really good idea and certainly a step in the right direction if they are helping people. I haven’t actually used either myself but I always use my worry stone. 🙂

  4. This was so interesting to read! I’ve seen those fidget toys everywhere and have often wondered if they actually help anyone. I think they would make me feel frustrated. Great post!

    1. I can definitely see how they would frustrate some people. I think for some people, using them would mean they’re focusing on something other than what they should be, which is where I think the teacher’s complaint is coming from. For me though, by being able to regulate my sensory input, I’m able to concentrate more and for longer periods of time, which is always helpful.

  5. I work at a children’s home in Ecuador. We us fidget toys for a hand full of our kids and they work wonders. So I am definitely a fan granted I have seen the benefits of them. We use foam lemons that can be squeezed. We give them to the kids when they are emotional out of control or when they are in stressful situations. Of course we do not want it to become a crutch or something they will need for the rest of their lives, but seeing that they have just come out of very abusive and stressful life situations they are a great way for the kids to let out stress. While receiving therapy. Great post.

  6. If the toys can help lengthen the times that kids can concentrate, I think that its a great thing. I haven’t heard of those but I know that at the library we have tried to create programming for kids on the autism spectrum.

  7. I’ve seen the fidget toys and had a go of the spinner, and I think that if they help people to concentrate that can only be a good thing.

  8. As a teacher, I have to say fidget spinners have become the bane of my life! Whilst I am all for children using these when they are needed I can see where schools are coming from. One of my main issues with them is that I have found it limits eye contact in the classroom. Children look at the fidget spinners, instead of each other and listening to whoever is talking. To have seven or eight fidget spinner going of at the same time, each with a slightly different whirring noise is difficult- even I loose what I’m saying sometimes because the noise distracts me and I know children have complained they can’t concentrate because of the noise. It’s a tough subject because I get why they’re used and I understand that but at the same time I’ve seen how they distract certain children.
    Robyn //

    1. Yeah, I think it’s difficult. I think that’s the problem with some of the more mainstream fidget toys–they make lots of noise, and aren’t necessarily intended to be used discretely. I guess that’s the point in which it becomes the latest craze as opposed to a tool aimed to help people, but hopefully those who don’t need them will grow bored of them soon, or will stop bringing them into the classroom so that others can concentrate. It’s definitely a difficult situation when they’re distracting others.

  9. Such an important topic I think. Great post! I do like these new toys though, they stop me fidgeting when I’m anxious about something (usually pretty much everything, especially at college)

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I use mine a lot in college, too. To be honest, I’m not sure whether I use it more for sensory regulating or anxiety at the moment. They definitely have a wide range of uses!

  10. Personally I think they are great! When I am anxious I tap and hate that people notice so something like this would make me less anxious. I dont agree that it should be banned it should just be used by those who find it helpful to them rather than use it in a disruptive manner! x
    Lola Mia //

  11. This was a really informative read! I haven’t actually seen the fidget cube/spinners advertised, but I have experience with a tangle toy, and I’ve always thought it’s a clever concept. It can only be a good thing that these gadgets are becoming trendy, hopefully people who need or want to use them to aid their concentration or to relax will feel more confident doing so.
    Juliet |

    1. Thank you! I definitely hope they make people feel more comfortable using them when they need to do so. I’m perhaps slightly passed the intended audience being in college and all, but I think these have helped people understand why I use a tangle in college so much.

  12. I think the cubes/toys becoming popular is great in terms of inclusion but my mum works in a school and has noticed that some children are highly distracted by them. I really hope schools don’t ban them entirely because they are really beneficial to some people.

    1. Yeah. I think that’s definitely the downside when things like this become popular, but the acceptance is more beneficial for the short-term inconvenience (but then I’ve never been a teacher, so I have a different perspective, I suppose). I really hope schools stop following suit and banning them. Many have said they’ll allow people with IEP’s or EHCP’s to continue bringing them in, but that’s problematic for people who haven’t got a diagnosis/aren’t seen to be struggling like I was years ago.

  13. As someone who is anxious a lot, I tend to fidget and fidget toys would be perfect for me! completely agree with you perspective x

    1. I think they’re definitely beneficial for people with anxiety. I think I use my tangle for anxiety as much as I use it for sensory regulation, especially recently. Sometimes it’s the distraction from yours thoughts you need that allow you to focus on the task at hand at the same time.

  14. Ah i keep seeing these on my Facebook and wondered what they are for. My daughter isn’t quite at school age, and I’m too old to know what the latest craze is haha. I have anxiety and something like this might help quiet the mind. I’m getting one! 🙂 Great informative post x x

    1. That’s fair enough! I think the main reason I know about them is because of my involvement in the neurodiversity community, and the fact I have young teenage siblings. My tangle definitely helps with my anxiety, and I’m looking at investing in a spinner for the same reason, so I hope it helps you, too! I’m glad you found this post informative.

  15. My local news ran a story about these toys the other day because apparently it’s the “craze” for kids and have been causing major class distractions. Personally, I think that if it’s actually working for someone then we shouldn’t make an issue.

    1. I think the media definitely have a tendency to grab a story, blow it out of proportion and run with it, regardless of the minorities they’re hurting with their comments. I definitely think there needs to be less of an issue made about them, too.

  16. I’ve seen these all over Facebook and I never really thought about what their original purpose was, but I can totally see how these could be an amazing help!

    1. Thank you! If you look at the category part of my blog I have several other blogs aiming to just the same thing, if you’re interested in learning more! 🙂

  17. I’m delighted to hear that the craze for these kinds of objects has given you the confidence to use your tangle toy in public! I personally think it’s a good thing that things like this are so mainstream now, it is true that some neurotypical people may be using them incorrectly, but with educational posts like this out there, people can be shown that the effect is overwhelmingly positive!

    Abbey 💐

    1. Thank you! Yeah, definitely. In some cases, neurotypical people can definitely benefit from these as much as people who aren’t if they’re taught how to use them properly.

  18. I feel like I need one of these! A very interesting read indeed! I am a chef in a private hospital for young people who have complex health difficulties, I wonder if these are being used? They are great if they help, but if someone is using them for the wrong reactions, then not so good!

    1. If you think you’d benefit one, I’d definitely say it’s worth the investment. I’ve been looking at the spinners online recently, and you can pick them up for a few pounds from Amazon. Ooh, that would be interesting; if they aren’t, I’d definitely make the recommendation considering they can help all sorts of people. Yeah, they aren’t so good when used incorrectly. 🙂

  19. Really great post, first of all. I think it’s good that these kind of toys invented, because of “minorities who need these toys will no longer be looked at as ‘weird’ or as non-conforming individuals.” – exactly, this. I personally don’t think that I need them, but that being said though, I wouldn’t mind if anyone use it around me if it calms them. Thank you for sharing this write up! 🙂 x Ain

    1. It’s great that you wouldn’t mind if people use them around you; according to the distaste from a lot of people, this is no longer the case, which is unfortunate!

  20. I’m so glad to hear these aids have helped. I actually read this week that they are being banned in classrooms cause kids aren’t using them correctly and other kids have complained it distracts them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

    1. Yeah. I think I touched briefly on it in my blog post, but I’m kind of conflicted if I’m honest. A lot of schools will lift their ban for pupils where it’s shown to be beneficial/who need them, but then aren’t you just alienating certain people from society, which is what these toys have stopped? On the other hand, though, there have been lots of reports about people being injured from them and schools DO have a duty of care. In cases like this where they aren’t being used correctly by a large of amount of people, it’s difficult to apply anything other than a ban to control them. I think alternatives should be spoken about and accepted in the classroom instead, though (like tangles, which are generally less violent).

  21. I must admit, I do think that these fidget toys have been used for the wrong reasons; a relatives school has become distracted by these, having gained precedent in lessons. I have Aspergers, but I loved the idea initially; we don’t look as ‘odd’ stemming, but the way it has become a mass market I do not like. (Would you mind leaving me some feedback for my blog?)


    1. It’s always interesting to hear a differing opinion, especially from a fellow ASD person. I think the market will die down once the next fad comes along which should help with the distractions in class, but hopefully the acceptance of stimming will continue afterwards.

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