Our story last week about the connection between ADHD, movement and thinking struck a nerve with readers. We reported on a small study in which students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder performed better on memory tasks when they were allowed to spin and move around in a swiveling chair.

We got hundreds of comments, tweets and emails. Even the CEO of Donors Choose, a fundraising site for teachers, wrote in to say that there are 1,455 projects with the key word “fidget” on his site. More than 1,000 teachers requested something called a “Hokki Stool” — a backless seat that allows kids to sit and wiggle.

On social media, meanwhile, we heard lots of ideas from teachers who’ve found creative ways to accommodate some students’ need to fidget without disrupting the whole class. Among them:

Bike inner tubes: Wrapped around the legs of a chair, they allow kids to bounce their legs during learning. There’s even a commercial version.

Chewing gum: Unjustly banned?

Coloring books: Stressed-out high school students love to color, several people reported. So do adults.

Desk placement: “I put my moving kids on the outside edges of desk clusters, just because they can move and not distract sitters,” Donna Bernens-Kinkead, a fifth-grade teacher, posted on Facebook. “I also never keep them seated more than 15 minutes at a time.”

Knitting: Many teachers wrote about the calming power of knitting, which is regularly taught in Waldorf schools. It can be done with fingers alone if needles are banned.

Pencil sharpening: Some said their students with ADHD were given special permission to get up and walk around, perhaps to sharpen pencils.

Stability balls: They’re also known as “yoga balls,” used as occasional or even continuous seating.

Standup desks: Increasingly popular, sometimes sold with adjustable stools and a foot board that wiggles. Julie Bishop commented on our story, “I always let the kids in my after-school program who had ADHD stand at the end of the tables while they did their homework. They’d bounce and wiggle and toe-tap without bothering the other kids and they always got their work done.”

Stress balls: Many “fidget toys” are sold for use by students, such as “squeeze balls,” “squeeze ducks” and Koosh balls. Sometimes their use is even written into an IEP, one teacher reported.

Do you have a favorite solution for a fidgeting student? Let us know.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
  • richardvahrman

    Do you have a favorite solution for a fidgeting student? Maybe the problem isn’t the student: maybe it’s the classroom.

  • Kathleen Wallace

    I am a veteran of special ed, reg ed, gifted ed. Here is how we “cure” most of the ADHD we see. Teachers: please stop requiring children to sit still!!

    What richardvahrman said.

  • KR

    These are all suggestions an OT would make for sensory diet. I wish you would add a part about OT and how we often are the team member helping kids to accommodate during school and activities.

  • mkirizarry

    I homeschool my son. I allow him to sit and move around on the swivel office chair he uses as much as he likes, as long as his backside his firmly planted in the seat. He is also free to stand and work or even sit on the floor if thats what it takes.

  • lyellepalmer

    Repeating from my Facebook comments: A student who fidgets is in a state of discomfort, often because of persisting primitive reflexes that can be matured. See the following: Moro Reflex, Asymmetrical and Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflexes (ATNR, STNR), Landau Reflex, Tonic Labyrinthian Reflex (TLR), and others. Movements of the head and neck trigger automatic reactions of which students often have not awareness, including twitches and jerks, awkward postures (legs straight when elbows are bent or vice versa), falling out of chair, etc. A therapist can evaluate and program a path to maturity and calm attention. Of course, other causes can also affect attention on any given day, but the reflexes are in play every moment of every day while the student is attempting to attend to the task at hand. Vigorous physical action helps temporarily, but long-term therapy is the permanent solution. Go to Youtube to see some daily activities related to maturation of retained reflexes mentioned above. At least 10 slow repetitions of activations daily over a year or more are required and the discipline is worth the effort. Get an evaluation and identify the underlying problems that are neurological. Help is available from physical educators, occupational, physical and developmental therapists. Safety implications exist, including coordination for fire escape, driving, impulse control and other actions.

  • Heike Larson

    The fundamental issue here, as we’d say in Montessori, is one of “preparing the environment.” What if we thought about the problem in a more fundamental manner than “how do you get fidgety children to stay in one place?” What if we asked, is it even necessary or right to make them stay in place in the first place (pun intended)?

    In Montessori classrooms, movement is purposefully built into the classroom environment–so that all children can do what comes natural, instead of being forced to remain largely immobile, glued to a chair at a desk, for most of their waking hours.

    For example, my six-year-old son needs to move about a lot (no diagnosis, because labels aren’t needed in Montessori). So his teacher encourages him to take his math work to one corner of the classroom, as far away from the math shelf as possible. He gets to carry the materials all over the classroom–when he is ready to do the work, as he has autonomy on when and where to work, and with whom. He can work on the floor with some materials, and on a table with others. And the activities themselves necessitate movement, as he collects, exchanges and arranges the math manipulatives.

    Especially for boys–who tend to need to move more, whether diagnosed with ADHD or not–a Montessori elementary experience can have a life-changing impact.

    Read more on Montessori, and how it inherently supports children’s need to move, here: http://leportschools.com/blog/movement-montessori-and-active-children/

  • http://www.21stCenturySchools.com/ Anne Shaw
  • Lisa Dispenza

    My students are permitted to lounge all over the room for most of my class… as long as they are on task. Some stand near their work area while they write, others choose to sit in backyard lounge chairs at the back of the room. Sometimes they lay on the floor with a book or a Chromebook. As long as they exhibit on-task behavior, and are not disturbing others around them it is acceptable. If they are not expelling brain power on sitting still, they are free to complete the assignment on hand.

  • Renee

    I send my son to school with rubber bands in his pocket so he can fidget with them in class.

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