Could a fidget spinner help your child during EQAO test week?

There are real benefits lying underneath the biggest toy craze of 2017, says a Toronto psychologist. Can fidget spinners help students succeed in the classroom?

A psychologist says the toy could benefit some children through self-stimulating behaviour

Fidget toys come in a variety of styles. An effective one should involve some movement or motion on the part of the child using it, which allows them to release excess energy. (Scholar's Choice)

You can find fidget spinners hypnotically whirring away in classrooms all over the country, but could this year's latest toy craze prove to be more than a mere distraction during EQAO exam week?

In some cases, maybe, says psychologist and author Sara Dimerman, based in Thornhill, Ont.

Dimerman says fidget toys — especially the finger-held spinners leading the craze — can help some students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism by offering a form of self-stimulating behaviour, or "stimming" as it is known in the psychology world.

"It seems to have a calming kind of response, especially in children with autism, but in all children and adults, in fact," Dimerman told Metro Morning on Monday.

Dimerman keeps a basket of fidget toys in her Toronto office and she says they help some of her patients during visits.

Under the right circumstances, she said she thinks those benefits could transfer to the classroom. Students in grades 3 and 6 in Toronto are writing Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) exams this week in reading, writing and math.

"Just being able to engage in a mindless activity like that allows [children] to keep their hands a bit busy and keep their minds on the teacher at the front of the classroom, for example," Dimerman said.

But while the toys are marketed in part based on similar claims, they have been found to offer little more than agitating distraction to other kids.

Dimerman says that's a particular challenge in a school setting, where the spinning and sometimes loud toys can draw attention from all over the classroom

"A child that hasn't been diagnosed with any concern might just be distracted by that," she said.

So for now, she's recommending teachers keep them out of the classroom, but to let the students who find them useful spin and fidget away during breaks.