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Using a Fidget Spinner in Speech Therapy

Fidget spinner in speech therapy

It seems like every generation has that weirdly simple thing that catches on and becomes popular.

When I was a kid, it was slap bracelets. Being a fashionista, I loved them. I remember having one in cheetah print.

Although fidget spinners became big at my school last spring, I didn’t get one right away. By August the kids will be sick of them, I thought. They’re still going strong now in December.

Fidget spinners don’t seem to be going away any time soon, so I decided I might as well get one and see what all the fuss is about. It turns out they do have several uses in speech therapy, besides just being something for students to, well, fidget with.

Why get a fidget spinner?

The first time I used a fidget spinner in speech therapy, my students wanted to know all about my spinner.

“Where did you get it?”

“How much did it cost?”

“Can I take it home with me?”

In short, they were very interested. And anyone who works with adolescent students knows that getting them interested is half the challenge.

I think that anytime we can incorporate something that is of interest to the students, we’re going to see an increase in engagement. That, plus the variety factor, are two reasons why I like using a fidget spinner in speech therapy.

Check out these ideas for how to use a fidget spinner in speech therapy.Click To Tweet

Several ways to use a fidget spinner in speech therapy

A good fidget spinner can spin for 45 seconds up to 2 minutes or longer. I let one of the students spin it, and we work together on a speech or language task until it stops spinning.

Here are some of the ways I’ve been using my fidget spinner in speech therapy.

1.  Increasing  talking time.

This is great for students targeting fluency techniques at the conversation level. I let them pick a conversation starter from a list, or watch a short animated video with me for the purpose of summarizing it. Then they spin and talk until the spinner stops (or longer if they want). This has helped me get them talking for longer periods of time. (Check out my post about cluttering for more fluency techniques I love.)

2. Taking turns.

This is great for my artic students who see me in a group. Each person spins and take his or her turn speaking until the spinner stops, then it’s the next person’s turn. Using this method, we’ve gotten a lot of practice in during each student’s turn.

3. Movement breaks.

Some of my students need frequent movement breaks to be able to focus. We will spin and “work” until the spinner stops, take a quick movement break, and then return to our work for another round. For movement breaks I like quick games, such as cornhole or trashketball.

My students have been more focused during “work” time since I started using the spinner. I’m not sure whether this is caused by the novelty factor, the visual feedback on the “work” time remaining, or the sense of control that my students feel when spinning it. Whatever the reason, I’m liking the increased engagement.

Purposeful spinning

Although some people use fidget spinners as stress relief tools, I haven’t done so because I already had marble and mesh fidgets on hand for that purpose.

I only use the fidget spinner with my students when we’re getting down to business. I call this purposeful spinning. 

I have found it helpful to have two rules for purposeful spinning. First, we put it on the table to spin it, rather than holding it and spinning it. This leaves our hands free. Second, we don’t touch it while it’s spinning. This allows us to keep our focus sustained on the therapy task for the entire duration of the spin.

I worried initially that my students would get distracted by watching the fidget spinner. The first time spinning it, they definitely wanted to look at it. Since then, it hasn’t been an issue.

Picking out your fidget spinner

There are so many fidget spinners out there right now, the sky really is the limit. Here are some of the factors that played into my purchase.

1.  Neutral color.

I wanted something that the girls and boys would both like using, so I decided on a silver colored fidget spinner.

2. No visible bearings.

After reading about a child swallowing a bearing, I opted for one in which the bearings are harder to remove. I also figured it might be more durable without pieces that could fall out.

3. Carrying case.

I travel to multiple schools, so I wanted a carrying case to protect my fidget spinner. Kids carry them in their pockets all the time, so this might not be absolutely necessary. I reasoned that keeping lint and other stuff away from the bearing might help it to spin longer (meaning more work time during speech therapy sessions).

4. Quality Product.

There are fidget spinners out there at all different price points, ranging from a basic $2 one at your local supermarket to a solid gold one sold by a Russian company for $17,000. I paid about $10 for mine.

Need a quick fidget spinner?

If you’re reading this post in between therapy sessions and don’t have a fidget spinner, you’re in luck. You can use a virtual one for free.

All you have to do is google “fidget spinner”. A virtual spinner will appear. You can make it go faster by clicking on it multiple times.

I accidentally came across the virtual spinner when I was writing this article. I use the Chrome browser, but it might work on other browsers too.

Using a Fidget Spinner in Speech Therapy

About the Author:

About Tween Speech Therapy Amanda Dugan, MS, CCC-SLP is an ASHA certified speech-language pathologist. She works full-time as a school SLP in North Carolina. Amanda has experience serving as Lead SLP and has spent more than 10 years molding young minds. She’s provided speech therapy to all ages of children, from toddlers to teens, and especially enjoys "tweens".

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