Dear Teacher

The fidget spinner debate rages on

Question: Many of the teachers in our kids’ elementary school have banned fidget spinners. What about kids who use them to calm themselves?

— No Spinners

Answer: Just in case someone does not know what a fidget spinner is, it is a gadget with three weighted prongs that spin. This is not a new gadget, as it has been in existence since 1993. Today, however, stores cannot keep fidget spinners in stock.

Why has this gadget become in such high demand? The great demand and increased sales for the fidget spinners is because of the alleged mental health benefits, especially for students with autism, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Keep in mind that this toy was not created by behavioral scientists; it was first patented in Florida by Catherine Hettinger, who wanted to promote world peace. She thought of the idea when visiting Israel and seeing young boys throwing rocks at each other, and developed fidget spinners as a better activity than throwing rocks. However, it never caught on.

Early in 2017, YouTube videos of kids doing tricks with fidget spinners went viral. Then reports emerged of children on the autism spectrum saying that using the spinner helped them to be more focused. Now spinners are being marketed as a medical intervention that is helpful for students with ADHD, anxiety and autism. Individual student success is not the same as scientific research. However, now more scientific studies are coming out to support the benefits found for ADHD and autistic students.

So what is the problem with fidget spinners and why are they being banned from classrooms across America? Many educators feel fidget spinners are:

∫ Nothing more than a toy

∫ Distracting

∫ Not needed by every student

The verdict is still out with educators. Yes, spinners focus some students, but they also distract other students. It is very difficult to teach distracted students, so the debate will continue as to whether fidget spinners can or should be used in the classroom. There are many other techniques that are less distracting that help students focus, from chewing gum to squeezing a ball to doodling.

Readers: It is important for you to understand that the first date for submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Students Aid) was Oct. 1. This is three months earlier than in the past. Without completing this form, students are not able to apply for federal, state or college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, educational loans and work-study programs.

It is very important for students to submit the FAFSA form as soon as possible, as financial aid is given out on a first-come, first-served basis. With the FAFSA being released three months earlier this year, funds may start to be depleted sooner in the application process than they have in years past.

Since the FAFSA is available earlier now, students must check financial aid deadlines carefully, as some schools may change their deadlines. A few may even change admissions deadlines.

One advantage of the earlier availability of FAFSA forms is that students will have more time to understand and compare their financial aid options before college admissions deadlines.

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