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ADHD Fidget Toys: Five options for the workplace

Updated: Nov 3, 2021


It's the last 30 minutes of the meeting. You've completely lost track of what's happening, and now your sole focus is making it through these final minutes. Why do you have to come to these? Looking around, you stare at a sea of calm and focused faces. No one else is shifting in their chair, rocking or flipping their pen. You try to impose the same focus look on your face and look at the clock. Twenty minutes left.

Often when we talk about struggles with focus and ADHD, people picture children in a classroom. But focusing in the workplace and also be difficult for ADHD adults, and there is evidence that some of the strategies used for childhood ADHD can also help these adults. One example is the use of fidget toys [1]. These fidgets are items the user can manipulate to provide sensory stimulation. While there is some controversy over which fidgets are best, there is also evidence that for those with ADHD, using fidgets can help increase focus and support concentration [2]–[4]. Even for older students in universities, fidget toys can be a helpful way to reduce distraction [1].

Many of our ADHD clients have found fidget toys helpful to focus their attention in a workplace setting, especially during meetings. But these fidgets often need to be as inconspicuous as they are useful, making choosing one more challenging. To help, I have outlined five different types of fidgets below. These are all items that our ADHD clients and coaches have successfully used in a workplace setting. Take a look and see if any might be a good fit for you.

1. Fidget Jewellery

This is a very common option. You may already have a favourite item that doubles as a fidget for work without even realizing it. Below, I have linked to some available fidget jewellery, but anything with texture or movement will do.

Pros:

  • Hard to forget

  • Easy to use silently

Cons:

  • Some of the specialized fidget jewellery can be clunky

  • Not applicable if you have sensory issues with wearing jewellery

2. Rubik's Cube

A Rubik's Cube, like many other small physical puzzles, can be an excellent desktop fidget. Picking it up and using it can provide a quick brain break or something to do when taking a call.

Pros:

  • Provides an excuse for a quick break

  • A conversation starter if others are also interested in puzzles

Cons:

  • Not an easy item to take into a meeting unless it's a mini version

3. Putty Eraser

The artist's putty eraser is a simple but effective fidget. Once manipulated, it can act as a soft sensory item.

Pros:

  • Great if you enjoy softer sensations

  • Inexpensive and easily replaceable

Cons:

  • Can get dirty

  • It won't make sense as a fidget if you don't use a pencil

4. Fidget Keyring

Keyrings are items that can already include sensory fidgets. Have a look at yours. What do you keep on there, and could you include a more sensory item?

Pros:

  • Inconspicuous way to bring colourful sensory items to work

  • Hard to lose

Cons:

  • It can be noisy when combined with keys

  • These might not make sense as a fidget in a meeting context

5. Notepad and Pen

This is a classic, but still very useful, fidget when you need to focus but can't bring sensory items into the workplace. For many people, transcribing a meeting or conversation can become a form of fidget. Below I have identified some notepad pen combo's that can be easier to carry around, but any notepad will do.

Pros:

  • A great option if you have to look focused, e.g. at a formal meeting

Cons:

  • Harder to remember and could get lost

  • Doodling might be conspicuous depending on where you're situated

  • It can distract you if you use the notepad to start working on other tasks

Hopefully, this list helps you start thinking through ways you could incorporate fidget toys into your workplace to support focus. Let me know which items you already use and which you're keen to try. And remember, using fidget toys is very common with ADHD. You might have already seen some inconspicuous ones in your colleague's workspaces and just not noticed!

Talk to you next week.

Skye


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References

[1] D. Slater and C. Digital, ‘An Innovative Use of Fidget Toys in a University Classroom’.

[2] J. Johnson and J. H. Yang, ‘Complementary and Alternative Treatment of ADHD in Adolescents’, in ADHD in Adolescents: A Comprehensive Guide, A. Schonwald, Ed. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2020, pp. 49–70. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-62393-7_5.

[3] S. K. Nielsen, K. Kelsch, and K. Miller, ‘Occupational Therapy Interventions for Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review’, Occup. Ther. Ment. Health, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 70–80, Jan. 2017, doi: 10.1080/0164212X.2016.1211060.

[4] A. Patinka, ‘Supporting Students with ADHD in the Classroom’, Dec. 2018, Accessed: Aug. 10, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://commons.lib.niu.edu/handle/10843/19288