Student Perspective: Fidgeting to Focus

Student Perspective: Fidgeting to Focus

This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom.

As someone with ADHD, sitting still and doing nothing is hard, so I like to fidget to help me focus. Many people think that fidgeting distracts the person doing it and those around them. For instance, at my summer camp, a student was fidgeting with a piece of rope (something I’ve done many times to help me focus). The instructor saw the student and demanded the rope be put away so he could “focus.”

Fidgeting ≠ Distraction

Fidgeting is not a distraction. For many people, fidgeting help them focus, redirecting their energy so they won’t become distracted. This is especially true for people with ADHD. I find that fidgeting can also be a coping mechanism to help me calm down when I’m annoyed, anxious, confused, etc. Although a teacher or classmate could be distracted by a student’s fidget, the student should not be punished for this.

Help Students Develop Self-Understanding

If you feel exceedingly strongly that certain fidgets are distracting, instead of telling a student to put away the fidget, you should help them find another fidget that works for them. I know some schools have a list of approved fidgets (although I’m not a fan of the solution). If you make a list of approved fidgets, the list can’t be set in stone. Changes and exceptions should be made for a student who needs something different.

When you see a student fidgeting, just know that they’re using their fidget to focus, not to bother others.

  • C. Solomon, Student Contributor

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org