Idle Hands and Fidgets

By Dmitri 

Hello again readers,

As yet another month of virtual classes has passed, I’d like to take a turn to one of the nicer aspects for me of online learning; no one can hear me messaging around with a fidget toy. As an ex- chronic knee bouncer myself, this past year and a half I’ve attempted to soothe my need to move about by putting a larger focus on my hands. As many people on the spectrum will note, sitting perfectly still in a desk all day is difficult. Idle hands start clicking mechanical pencils, legs start bouncing, finders tap against desks, swallows and other mouth movements become repetitive. God knows how many times I’ve been given a nasty look or even called out for movement such as this. And granted, while I understand that some fidgets can be more distracting than others in a classroom setting, I wish I could’ve had someone to tell me that what I was doing was ok, and just how my brain worked.

As I learned more about myself and the resources available to me, I decided to give stim toys a shot. From past experience with the fidget toys that had entered into the mainstream (fidget spinners, fidget cubes, etc) I already had some footing into what kind of stim I liked. I knew I wasn’t a huge fan of fidget spinners, and the part of fidget cubes I really liked (the bubble
pop side) was too loud and distracting for practical use. As I searched for a good device for idle hands I thought about what I liked, usually devices that fold in on themselves in some way or have some other interesting geometry that my fingers could explore, and what I could actually use in a classroom setting. I finally landed on something that suited my needs, interlocking rings fidget. I found a nice shop on Etsy that made them in a variety of colors and sizes. I ordered a small one, with more rings to provide a quieter experience, and picked out my favorite colors. It worked out much better than my previous experiences. During long physics lectures, I could soothe my body and mind by quietly fidgeting under my desk with one hand while taking notes with the other.

But now with the switch to online learning, one of my main criteria for fidgets has been thrown out the window and I don’t have to care about keeping quiet and out of sight. I recently got a puzzle fidget from one of my favorite 3D printing designers, Devin Montes. It’s a beautifully designed rotating 3D printed body with small plastic marbles of different colors trapped inside, the goal of the puzzle aspect is to get all the same colored marbles next to each other. It makes a horribly loud but ever so satisfying clicking and whooshing sound as the marbles move in their tracts and the main body of the device rotates around. To me it’s calming, but I understand that it would never do in a traditional classroom setting. That’s why I’m so glad I have it now. In these rapidly changing times, when idle stressed hands need something to hold onto, it’s nice to find little things to enjoy.