Tool of the Month: Fidgets

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Everybody loves fidget tools!  But why?

Our hands are home to a multitude of touch receptors, muscles, and joints.  Each time we touch, hold, or manipulate an object, signals are sent to our brain.  Some of these signals help us to discriminate what it is we are touching (help us to identify the object without looking) and others help us to use this input to alter our level of arousal.  In order to be successful in our daily tasks, we need to be able to alter our arousal level.  When falling asleep or watching television a low level of arousal is suffice, while attending to a task that requires focus and attention requires an arousal level that is a bit higher.   There are also times when a high arousal level is appropriate such as playing sports.  There are many ways to change arousal level, including using the sense of touch or the internal sense of proprioception received through muscle and joint contraction and relaxation.  All individuals use these senses throughout the day to alter their arousal level.   Strategies are individualized and are often done without thinking about them – such as bouncing legs, cracking knuckles, chewing a piece of gum, drinking through a straw, clicking a pen.  With the popularity of fidget toys, individuals are now able to find more tools that meet their preference.  Some tools may provide more light touch – which can be more alerting, while others may provide more deep touch – which can be more calming.  Any tool that exercises the muscle and joint of the hand can also help with bringing the body to the appropriate level of arousal.  Actually, tools that provide muscle and joint changes, can be great choices because this type of input can raise or lower arousal level depending upon what the body needs.  Touch can also strengthen the ability to learn and retain information, because more parts of the brain are activated when an object is being touched, helping build connections for later retrieval.  Fidget tools or other strategies such as tapping, clicking, cracking, bouncing, etc. are appropriate and can used as long as they are helping the individual to meet the appropriate arousal level for the given moment.  Fidget tools and strategies should be reconsidered when they become a distraction.

Throughout the month, I am going to share all of my favorite fidgets!!

Join me for my Top Ten Favorite Fidgets, starting with …


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