Fidgets: Not Toys, Tools
By Chloe Rothschild
I’m sitting on the stage among a panel of individuals with Autism moderated by Steve Silberman. As I sit, listen, answer questions, and take everything in, I grasp a rainbow colored fidget toy in my hand. I “play” with this fidget toy throughout the hour long panel. I hope that the audience, the rest of the panel, and moderator know that I was listening, I was participating, I was following the conversation, and answering questions when I had something to say. I’m sure some people are wondering, how could I pay attention and participate while I “played” with a toy? And why did I bring the “toy” on stage with me? Why didn’t I leave it backstage? The answer is; I have Autism. I have sensory differences and needs like many individuals across the spectrum. I need to move in order to pay attention. Well, moving helps me pay attention and participate to the best of my ability.
So what one may see as a rainbow toy, is actually something that I use as a tool. Yes, fidgets can be both toys and tools. I learned from adults in my life when I was young that a fidget is a tool, but if it becomes a toy (i.e. thrown) it’s no longer a tool. I know I need my fidgets. I’m at a point in my life as a young adult with autism where I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my sensory needs and my need for these tools. I’m becoming more comfortable with using them when I need them. When I use them, I am helping to give my body the sensory input it needs and craves. Not using these tools would be like not giving my body what it wants, seeks, and needs.
So what exactly is a fidget? The true answer? Anything that works for the individual! It doesn’t have to be something expensive or special. It could be a binder clip, a paper clip, a bracelet, a rubber band, a Slinky, stress balls, Play-Doh, and other fidgets. You can sometimes find items that can be great fidgets at stores like Party City, Target’s dollar spot, Michael’s or craft stores, toy stores, specialty toy stores, etc. You can also order fidgets online from special stores such as Fidget Club, Stimtastic, The Therapy Shoppe, Got Autism, Office Playground, Fun and Function, and many more.
Some fidgets that I like are Tangles. They come in a wide variety of different colors, textures and sizes. I also like putty such as Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty (but remember to be careful so it doesn’t sick to anything. Yes, I’ve had it happen!). I also like Slinkys, they come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. I also like the Jeliku fidget, which is the rainbow fidget that was referenced earlier. Some other fidgets that I like that may not be quite as noticeable. They are more discrete like bike chain fidgets. I like the keychain ones. I get mine from Fidget Club. Also, the metal snake fidgets can be worn as a necklace or bracelet. I also like the Boinks fidgets, which you can get just as a small fabric fidget with a marble in it, or as a keychain. I like the keychain because it’s easy and so accessible. It’s readily available when I need to fidget. I also like phone coil type bracelets, my favorites are the ones by cHu-buDDy. I also like bracelets that are made of a slinky type wire material, although I break them easily, but they are still a favorite of mine. Some other fidgets that you may like are puffer balls, stress balls, stretchy string or animals, Klixx, Stretch and Bounce Balls, and mini wooden puzzle fidgets. My only advice with the stretch and bounce balls, and like items, is that sometimes in my experience though I love them, I can pop them rather easily.
When selecting a fidget, you have to really think about what is best for you. What sensory need is it that you are seeking? Finding the right fidget can be a game of trial and error. Just like any other thing in life, novelty can wear off, that’s why I have many different fidgets available to me. Also different fidgets can help meet different needs. Anything that works for you can be a fidget, it doesn’t have to be a traditional fidget, maybe it’s a small toy car, train, or figurine etc. Whatever works for you is what matters!
Chloe Rothschild is a young adult with autism who speaks, writes and advocates about autism to help teach others. Chloe serves on Ohio Collation for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI)’s advisory board. She also is the managing editor for the Autism Research Institute Adult’s with Autism eBulletin. Chloe has a public Facebook page where she shares her thoughts and more: https://www.facebook.com/chloerothschildasd/.
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