GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- First it was bottle flipping, then putty and slime, and now fidget spinners.
The pocket-sized craze has taken over Minnesota classrooms, leaving some schools to try and get a handle on it.
“They are a distraction at learning time,” said Dillon Rumble, a third-grader who said fidget spinners are banned at his elementary school in the Anoka Hennepin district.
With a fidget poised on top of his pinky finger, he demonstrates Harlem Globetrotter style tricks and spins, all just for fun, but Rumble’s older sister says she needs fidget spinners for anxiety, whether it’s test taking at school, or at the dentist.
“Today I used it during my root canal, it helped me get my mind off the fact there were drills going into my teeth, it really helped calm me down a lot,” said Morgan Preston-Rumble, 15, a freshman at Spring Lake Park High School. “I kind of need it for anxiety reasons not just for fun or to be trendy.”
Rob Gamache, a fourth- and fifth-grade reading teacher at Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts in the Anoka-Hennepin District, sees many students with approval for fidgets, written into an IEP plan, especially those with ADHD and autism, who need help focusing or sitting still.
“I think it's an OK deal because a lot of kids do come with a lot of stress and anxiety, that might be undiagnosed,” said Gamache. “As long as you are focused on the lesson and you are just spinning it in your hand, we are good to go.”
Gamache also doesn’t hesitate to confiscate spinners when misused.
“It’s becoming a status symbol, whether you have one or not, which one you have. That’s the stuff we have to remind the kids, these are designed for a purpose,” said Gamache.
Amanda Weber, a parent from Maplewood, agrees.
“People have forgotten why and who they were intended for. My son depends on these 'fidgets' to help with social interactions and his extreme anxiety. They help him calm in a discrete way and avoids awkward stares. When situations become overwhelming due to his sensory processing disorder he grabs either a spinner or cube and he can calm himself without a meltdown or anxiety attack. These are essential for everyday living in our house,” said Weber.
With stores selling out, and thousands of fidget spinners for sale on Amazon, the dizzying debate isn’t going anywhere just yet. Many students are making them from skateboard wheels, or even 3D printing their own spinners.
On KARE 11’s Facebook page, many educators weighed in.
“Coming from a teacher... it is a distraction in the classroom. I think it's a great toy. But when it keeps you from doing your work and is distracting others that not a helpful tool. Please do not send them to school! If you think it will help your child stay focused test it out at home first, when they are doing their homework. Please tell me how much homework they get done while using the spinner,” said Nicki Stemper.
The rules in Minnesota schools aren’t clear cut when it comes to the new fad. In some districts, it’s up to the school or teacher over whether the spinners are seen as therapeutic or a distraction.
“If I can keep a kid focused in my room, it works for me. It was silly bands five years ago, now it’s fidget spinners, it will be something else two years from now,” said Gamache.