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Press On: Fidgeting for Adults with ADHD

fidget Jun 12, 2021

Adults need fidgets too. Fidgets can be used to keep you stimulated by using multiple sensory channels. Fidgets have real world benefit and can help adults get through board meetings or their children’s piano recitals. Sure, we all have our cell phones, but using phones conveys a distinct message that “you are not as important as what’s on my phone.” In contrast, fidgets can be disguised and even in obvious cases doesn’t make the person feel less important.

  1. Better Listening Through Fidgeting. The number one idea I got from Paul Orfalea, the founders of Kinkos. While I was interviewing him for my book The Gift of Adult ADD, he hopped out of his seat and walked away from the table in the middle of the conversation. I was afraid he would not return. He returned moments later with a handful of coffee stirrers, one of which he was chewing on. Chewing on a coffee stirrer is a way to channel hyperactivity and is not nearly as insulting as pulling out your cell phone.

  2. Taps. Tap your way through the bored meeting. Use the stirrer to drum out your inner fidgets without making any noise. Keep your mind busy keeping tune marching to your own inner drummer and your hand busy tapping out the beat. Because stirrers are so flimsy they don’t make much noise and will not make any noise if you tap something cushioned or your own legs for example.

  3. Press On. You can take markers and write “PRESS ON” on several coffee stirrers. The phrase “Press On” can both connote the need to keep trying and also the physical action of pressing on the stirrer. Get out your tension by applying pressure to the stirrers in a soothing action like smoothing it out. You can also press on the stirrer to bend it and make different shapes. Repeat the healing mantra for a calming effect, “Press on.”

Why does fidgeting help people to listen? Physical activity is known to increase attention and even fidgeting offers benefits by releasing dopamine.  It may be that it gives a person a sense of control over their environment and thereby has a calming effect.  It may be a personality trait. Some people are high tempo and some people are low tempo. It may be that fidgeting allows high tempo people to adapt in low tempo situations.