Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fidget Ideas for Middle Schoolers

Here are some purposeful fidget ideas we used for several middle-schoolers enrolled in a class for students with high-functioning autism:

Some of these items can be used during academic work and some can be used for brief breaks in the routine. Hopefully, using typical care routines (washing hands, filing nails, using lotion) will provide helpful sensory input and diminish the distractions of rough nails, snaggy cuticles, built-up dirt or other matter on the hands.

"Chinese" finger puzzle (braided cylinder that both index fingers are inserted into and can only be removed by relaxing the hands)
Tanglo connecting toy that twists into lots of shapes
Spirograph activities (will probably need to get a second spirograph for the classroom)
Crunchy foods available between meals
Ready made inexpensive dough with lots of seasonings added--bag for each student.
Frequent handwashing with soap & water kept in the classroom
Rubbing pleasant-smelling lotion on hands and forearms
Keep kit for each student with emery board, nail clippers, comb and have them use with supervision (file nails out of doors if possible!) Note: be aware that some schools have policies regarding using nail clippers in school buildings; by students using the tool independently or even when adults use the tool. Your school nurse might provided insight into the school policy.
Scent containers--Save plastic spice containers and place small amounts of strong-smelling spices/extracts in the different containers. Have students sniff the container, then match the container with a card bearing the name or picture of the spice. (Thanks to Thelma White of Amelia Street School for this activity.) Select a variety of twist open and pop open containers for good IP joint stabilization exercises.

Heavy Work Activities: (Some therapists have reported that incorporating heavy work activities into the school routine several times a day often reduces a student's frequency of fidgeting during academic tasks).

Chair push-ups (hold both sides of chair and try to raise body off chair seat)
Theraband exercises, lifting water weights
Dig up ground outside school building to plant seeds or annuals--measure height of plants receiving weekly fertilizer vs. plants with only water. Use gallon milk cartons to carry water from building to garden, varying amount of water and hopefully increasing volume as the weeks pass.

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