A psychologist debunks the claim that fidget spinners help kids focus

Fidget spinners are everywhere these days. You can buy them on any street corner for a few dollars, and both kids and adults are obsessed with them. The companies that make these hot new gadgets claim they help relieve stress and anxiety and can help kids with ADHD focus. David Anderson, PhD, a clinical psychologist from the Child Mind Institute, shares his thoughts on spinners.

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Following is a transcript of the video:

They’re a toy. They’re a gag gift. Not so much a treatment.

My name is Dr. Dave Anderson. I’m  a clinical psychologist who trained and specializing in treatment for ADHD and behavior disorders.

Fidget spinners are a new craze similar to the slime craze earlier this year, where you have a couple arms, a little device that spins while you hold it. It has kind of this gyroscopic feel where you’re balancing it, maybe you could do some tricks with it.

This is a fidget spinner.

They’re easy to buy, they’re on every street corner, and there’s a sense that, you know, to be cool you need to have one.

So the great thing about fidget spinners is that they’ve brought the discussion for what works for ADHD or what might work for anxiety or stress relief to the forefront, which is great for us to have. The only issue is they have about as much scientific evidence for stress relief or for treatment of anxiety and ADHD as a pet rock.

They’re a toy. They’re not a treatment.

So the thing is there’s no psychologically recommended gadget. There are only gadgets that fall in line with scientifically-based psychological principles.

So the idea is for a kid experiencing stress, or anxiety, or depression, or ADHD, we might create, say, a coping kit for that child, when they’re experiencing certain amounts of stress. That might include music to listen to. It might include a stress ball tho squeeze. It might include something to remind them to breathe or to practice a mindfulness strategy.

But it’s really on a case-by-case basis. There’s no universal recommendations of a particular toy for stress relief or a particular object for stress relief. Fidget spinners have absolutely no scientific studies behind them, showing any sort of effectiveness in treating this. And the major reason for that is that they’re a fad.

They’ve only just come about, and scientific studies take time and money. So if something is really new, and it’s making a lot of noise, it’s unlikely to be scientifically supported. And if we’re talking about treatment for anxiety, or ADHD, or for stress relief, we wanna go after things that have a bit more scientific support, like cognitive behavioral strategies for managing their symptoms.

In other words, a way of noticing when they might be distractable, or when they might be having difficulty focusing and figure out how they might be able to get back on task.

We teach them about how to break test into smaller pieces and how to make sure that they are going through each of those pieces and planning for the time that it might take.

I think it’s always an issue when any company makes a sensational claim about a new product that provides treatment that isn’t backed by science for mental illness. Fidget spinners are low in terms of that hierarchy, partly because we don’t necessarily think they’re doing any harm. Adults don’t seem swayed in thinking that this is a treatment, and it mainly seems like the kids have picked up on this argument that it’s helpful in stress relief, as an argument they might have with their teachers or with their parents, and nobody’s buying.

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Experts poke holes in claims that fidget spinners can treat ADHD

Experts poke holes in claims that fidget spinners can treat ADHD

Teachers' worst nightmare.
Teachers’ worst nightmare.

Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fidget spinners are a fun, relaxing fount of mindless entertainment. But are they really more than a cheap toy?

Some experts say no. Despite marketing claims, there’s no research that shows the wildly popular spinners are therapeutic tools for people with anxiety, autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

“I know there’s lots of similar toys … and there’s basically no scientific evidence that those things work across the board,” Scott Kollins, a clinical psychologist and professor at Duke University, told NPR on Sunday.

That doesn’t mean the three-pronged plastic phenomena don’t provide any real benefits, or that parents and educators are wrong when they say it helps some children focus in the classroom. But retailers may be stretching the truth when they label these devices as treatments for fidgety behavior, minuscule attention spans, or discomfort in a classroom setting.

You sure about that, Mr. Fidget Spinner Maker?

You sure about that, Mr. Fidget Spinner Maker?

“It’s important for parents and teachers who work with kids who have ADHD to know that there are very well studied and documented treatments that work, and that they’re out there, so there’s not really quick and easy fixes like buying a toy,” Kollins told NPR. 

About 11 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 4 and 17 — or 6.4 million kids — have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Their parents often search for help beyond the typical medication, which might make them more vulnerable to marketing efforts that falsely lump these toys in the category of evaluated, proven solutions that help students focus and learn.

Another expert had a similarly skeptical view of fidget spinners.

“Using a spinner-like gadget is more likely to serve as a distraction than a benefit for individuals with ADHD,” Mark Rapport, a clinical psychologist at the University of Central Florida who has studied the benefits of movement on attention in people with ADHD, told LiveScience earlier this month. 

Still, parents and some developmental specialists have defended fidget spinners, even as teachers and schools banned them from the classroom for being too disruptive. Proponents argue that, under the right circumstances, spinners and devices like them can soothe an anxious student or calm a hyperactive mind.

Hmm, maybe not.

Hmm, maybe not.

“These little gadgets should be called fidget tools, not toys, and they can be part of a successful strategy for managing fidgety behavior if they are introduced as a normal part of the classroom culture,” Claire Heffron, a pediatric occupational therapist in Cleveland, recently told the Washington Post.

A 2015 study found that students with ADHD performed better on a computerized attention test the more intensely they fidgeted. Children without ADHD, meanwhile, did not improve their test score with fidgeting.

But Julie Schweitzer, the study’s author and a clinical psychologist at the University of California at Davis, said it’s too early to know whether fidget spinners could deliver similar results. 

“We need to study them to find if they make a difference and for whom,” Schweitzer told the Post.

via Mashable! http://on.mash.to/2qR8tKT

Makers of Crowdfunded “Gravity Blanket” Withdraw Unsupported Medical Claims


“Gravity blanket” on Kickstarter that claimed to use cozy pressure to treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions has been taking the internet by storm, raising more than $3 million. But on Thursday, the company quietly deleted the bold medical claims on its crowdfunding site — language that violated Kickstarter policy and went against FDA recommendations — after STAT inquired about its promotional statements.

The creators of Gravity call their product a “premium-grade, therapeutic weighted blanket” intended to treat psychiatric illnesses. People quickly snuggled up to the idea: More than 15,000 donors contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to help get the blanket to the market, where it’s projected to sell for as much as $279.

A slew of publications have touted the product with headlines such as, “I Want This Anti-Anxiety Blanket and You Will Too.” But the science behind the blanket’s claims is scarce— as STAT found by reviewing the studies the manufacturer cites as evidence for its claims.


The Kickstarter campaign made big promises: “The science behind Gravity reveals that it can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as circumstantial stress and prolonged anxiety.”

But on Thursday afternoon, that language was swapped to say the blanket could be “used” for those conditions, rather than treat them. Then, the section disappeared entirely. The makers haven’t posted an update about the changes for their buyers.

The blanket’s creators didn’t respond to a request for comment. After STAT inquired about the campaign with Kickstarter, the site said it asked the Gravity team to change the language because it wasn’t in line with their rules on health claims.

A screen capture of the Gravity Kickstarter page before the language was changed.

Gravity isn’t the type of product regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, FDA recommendations released in July 2016 laid out clear guidelines for promoting wellness products, which are low-risk items designed to support a healthy lifestyle.

They can be marketed as supporting people who live with anxiety. They shouldn’t claim that a product can treat an anxiety disorder.

The marketing language also appeared to violate Kickstarter’s rules. The crowdfunding site prohibits campaigns for “any item claiming to cure, treat, or prevent an illness or condition.” Kickstarter has previously said that the rule was developed out of concern that medical claims could have “harmful consequences” for consumers.

Regardless of how it’s promoted, the evidence behind the product is scarce.

It’s not a miracle therapy,” said Dr. Khalid Ismail, a sleep medicine researcher at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “I don’t think it’s ready for prime time yet.”

Weighted blankets simulate the feeling of a big hug. The creators say it’s similar to swaddling a newborn baby, but with a much higher price tag. They claim that the increased weight — also known as deep touch pressure stimulation — can increase serotonin and melatonin levels while driving down cortisol, a stress hormone, “all without filling a prescription.”

It’s not a novel concept: Weighted blankets have been used in children with autism and elderly individuals with dementia. You can even buy them with a lower price tag from home goods stores.

What’s new is that they’re trying to broaden the indication for its use,” said Ismail. 

But the research they cite falls short of the hype.

One study looked at the use of weighted blankets, among other products, in a “sensory room” in an inpatient psychiatric unit. The researchers studied 75 people who used that room and concluded that those who tried the blanket reported a decrease in their anxiety and distress. But there was also a decrease in those symptoms among people who didn’t get under the blanket. And the study wasn’t blinded, so people might’ve reported positive effects because they were led to expect the blanket would have a positive effect.

Another study touted by Gravity’s creators found that 63 percent of individuals who used a 30-pound weighted blanket had reduced symptoms of anxiety. But the research included only 32 adults and no control group.

The creators of the blanket did not respond to a request for comment.

Ismail said it isn’t clear who, exactly, the blanket would benefit. Many cases of sleeplessness result from poor sleep hygiene, like being glued to a phone before bed; others result from underlying psychiatric disorders that require treatment.

It might have a role, but in a very, very small subset of patients,” Ismail said, “and I don’t think we’ve identified that subset of patients with a really good randomized controlled trial.” 

The campaign says it expects to start shipping blankets in October.

This post has been updated with information about new changes to the Kickstarter page.

via Hacker News http://bit.ly/2q5KMiK

Free Loaders: Building tiny towns with a Little Land

If anyone is reading this, I need your help. The apocalyptic thunderstorm happening in the clouds above me has already knocked out the power once, and there’s no telling when it might happen again, so I must write quickly, even it makes this opening paragraph sound like the last note written by a doomed character in Prey. I’ve collected some free games, please take them to safety and play the ones you think are neat. You can find them in the locker. The code is 1234.

Little Lands by Robin Field and Billy Hobson

Teeny weeny town clicker. Randomise the landscape (or create your own island) then start constructing your colourful little town. The ultimate goal is to funnel enough resources from time to time into your shipyard, so that you may escape this listless existence in a “space boat to freedom”. But pirate ships will come and attack you from the coastal waters, because you are soft and squishy.

But maybe you can build those archery towers. Oh wait you need workers. Build a worker’s house, then. Oh wait you need wood. Build a lumberjack’s cabin! Oh wait you need stone. Build a quarry! Oh wait you need food. Do you see what is going on here? A tight wee game of resource management and adjacency bonuses. Don’t worry if the pirates chip away at the land, new tiles generate randomly over time, meaning the island is constantly (if slowly) growing. Important note: pressing ‘R’ does not rotate your buildings. It restarts your game. Learn from my mistakes, young free loader.

MOLOCH by Seemingly Pointless

Corporate interview OS. I bet you really want that sweet job as [shift manager] in the MOLOCH corporation. This test will see if you are good enough. Or, it’s supposed to. I did it myself and I am none the wiser as to my suitability for the role. And I was extra obedient too, and efficient! I was probably only responsible for about 40 casualties. I guess I’m just not what they’re looking for.

Murdercide 2017 by Powerhoof

“Soft-boiled” cyberpunk. There’s been a “murder-killing” and detective Murphy is being brought in to investigate. An old-fashioned point and click adventure made of good jokes, bad jokes and some awful jokes. Arguably the whole thing – the murder, the machines, the inventory puzzles – is one big set-up for the final, fatal punchline, which is a joke of Airplane! proportions. I like that the inner monologue is that of a rough and seasoned Chandleresque P.I. but the main character’s actual voice is goofy, loud-mouthed and incredibly annoying. It’s good that the whole disaster is wrapped up within 15 minutes, because I probably couldn’t stand to listen to him anymore.

Causeway by Yarn Spinner

Short banching choices walkabout. You dander along a sandy bank, finding messages in bottles about your life and making decisions about where to go next based on the signs ahead of you. You’ve left home, you see, following some unspoken altercation with your parents – anything after that is a series of binary decisions for you to make. Oh, it’s a CAUSEway. I get it. A literal geographical representation of whether the decision to laugh at a thoughtless joke or speak up for yourself might have an effect on your life (or maybe not as much of an effect as you’d hope). I got Good End and Mediocre End. I don’t know if there’s a Bad End. Play it and find out for me, willya?

Carrocalipse by Pedro Paiva

Like Frogger, but filled with FILTHY COMMUNISM!

Depthgun by Leafo

Intenstinal shooter. Sphincter status: critical.

via Rock, Paper, Shotgun http://bit.ly/2rsUZWs

If Art History Icons Were Hipsters

What if the Mona Lisa got tired of her old silk robes and decided to trade them in for a trendy jumpsuit? That’s exactly the kind of scenario Japanese graphic designer Shusaku Takaoka specialises in bringing to life, and he does it with pure wit.

More info: Instagram (h/t: boredpanda)

Takaoka is an expert at turning history into hipster. His works hilariously transform some of the classical art world’s most iconic faces into modern city slickers, and we actually wouldn’t be surprised if we saw any of these made-over canvas characters chilling on the subway, or strutting the latest trends on Broadway. But Takaoka didn’t stop there – he’s also reimagined them as movie stars, magazine covers, and even baristas.

via DYT. Design is all around us. http://ift.tt/2pMn0n7

Aerial Pictures of London by Night

Jason Hawkes, photographe aérien dont nous avions déjà partager le travail sur New York, nous présente sa nouvelle série nocturne. Installé à Londres, il survole la ville en hélicoptère et réalise de superbes clichés. En prenant un peu de hauteur, le photographe nous fait découvrir les lumières de la capitale britannique sous un autre angle. A découvrir dans la galerie d’images.

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