Category Archives: Austism Spectrum Disorder

Are fidget spinners useful?

Are fidget spinners useful?

You’ve seen them, haven’t you? The weird little spaceship things children like to play with all the time.

Here are some fidget spinners

They have become a global craze. When I was at school it was elastics, jacks and swap cards but now it is fidget spinners.

The palm sized, three pronged design spins on a central bearing and has been marketed as helping children with ADHD and autism. This is a not completely untrue as some children who have these diagnoses and some who have no diagnosis may find the toy useful but marketing the toy that way is quite misleading. The toys may be of some assistance to a subset of children with ADHD or children who are on the autism spectrum but the assistance they provide is fairly limited and may well be provided in another way just as easily. Fidget spinners are certainly not a “must have” for children with ADHD or who are on the autism spectrum.

It is true that fidget toys appear to have a calming effect and can help some children to focus. A fidget toy could be a range of items. It could be as simple as two pieces of velcro that a child attaches and then removes over and over again. It could be a squashy toy the child can squeeze or it could be a fidget spinner. No single fidget toy is guaranteed to work for every child and certainly not every child can benefit from a fidget toy.

For the right child a particular fidget toy can help them to concentrate and focus on their work. It is as if they need an outlet for their energy so that the rest of their body can be calm. However, there is no recipe and it is a matter of trying what might work for that child. Fidget spinners do seem very popular but some teachers complain that they are distracting for other children.


school boy using fidget toy

boy with fidget spinner

Sandra Mortimer, a lecturer at South Australia’s, Flinders University, told the ABC that research in the area is fairly limitedbut anecdotal evidence supports the use of fidget spinners for some children.

Fidget spinners have become a global craze. Some schools have decided to ban them.

The ABC states that the mother who invented the toy is not benefiting from its’ popularity as she could not pay for the continued patent.

Catherine Hettinger from Orlando, saw some children throwing rocks one day and thought there must be a better way to distract and occupy children. At first she thought of soft rocks to throw but she eventually developed the fidget spinner.

Her patent expired in 2005 and she was not able to pay for the extension meaning that companies can manufacture and sell the product without her involvement. But she isn’t upset about the popularity. She is thrilled that her invention is so successful.

Why is there a sudden boom in popularity? Hettinger thinks people just need a way to calm their nerves and reduce anxiety.

The ABC reports that Principal Judy Cottam from Renmark West Primary School in South Australia, first saw a fidget spinner being used by a student who had made his own, from his skate board. After that students started bringing in numerous fidget spinners until the teachers started to complain and the toys were banned from class.

Dr Justin Coulson, a leading Australian parenting expect is reported by the ABC to liken the fidget spinner trend to the popularity of stress balls in the past. He says there is some evidence that children benefit from movement in the classroom but understands that a classroom of children all spinning their fidget spinners could make teaching very difficult.

It is great for children to have access to toys that might help them to calm down. These fidget spinners are not expensive ranging from around ten to fifteen dollars. We are often concerned with the amount of time our children spend in front of screens such as computers, i pads, television and even ‘phones. This is one alternative. If you don’t see it as a cure for all ills or accept the over stated claims, a fidget spinner can be a positive thing. Having said that, it seems quite reasonable to keep them out of classrooms.

Heusenroeder Catherine – ABC Riverland Does Fidget Spinner Craze Have a Place in the Classroom  10 May 2017

Calfas Jennifer – Money  Meet the Woman Who Invented Fidget Spinners, the Newest Toy Craze Sweeping America 6 May 2017


Introducing Julia, the first Sesame Street Character with Autism!

Sesame Street the popular and long running American educational children’s television series has a new initiative aimed at helping children with autism. It is called Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. As part of this initiative, Sesame Street is about to welcome a new character called Julia and she has autism.


See Amazing in All Children “will help increase understanding, reduce stigma, and demonstrate the commonalities that children with Autism share with all children. We will also develop resources for families of children with Autism to help them reduce the stress of everyday routines, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, trying a new food, or playing with other children.” Says Sesame Street.

The initiative, “offers families ways to overcome common challenges and simplify everyday activities. At the same time, the project fosters an affirming narrative around autism for all families and kids,” Have a look at the Amazing Song below which helps to emphasise shared experiences for all children.

“Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences,” says a Sesame Street representative Dr Jeanette Batancourt. “Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group.”

Julia is a digital character as research indicates that families with autistic children prefer digital animation. The character was developed with input from families with autistic children. She will be coming to your screens as part of the Sesame Street team very soon!

Julia will also feature in other media including books. The storybook We’re Amazing 1,2,3! is available for free. We’re Amazing 1,2,3!  We're Amazing 1,2,3! pm

In the book Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Julia play together. Elmo explains some of Julia’s unexpected behaviour to Julia and helps Abby to understand. There is an emphasis on what Julia has in common with Elmo and Abby and normalises her differences. This helps other children reading the book or having the book read to the, to better understand differences in children they know or may come into contact with.

To find out more about the See Amazing in All Children initiative go to the website See Amazing in All Children. you will find a range of resources, videos.

To donate to the Sesame Workshop go Sesame Workshop.

Occupational Therapy and ASD

Occupational Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Occupational therapy can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Childworks is an occupational therapy practice in Castle Hill which helps children in the Hills District and Northern Suburbs of Sydney.

Occupational therapists or (OTs) are university educated health professionals. OTs can assist children to engage in school, play and self-care occupations and to participate in their life roles with their families at home, school, and in the community. Because OTs help children in a range of locations, Childworks is a mobile practice. We can see children in our rooms, at home, at school or day care and in the community. Having treatment at the appropriate location helps children to generalise their skills and progress.

Boy blowing bubbles

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Austism Spectrum Disorder is a range of developmental disorders. The characteristics common to these disorders, are social interaction and restricted or narrow interests. In many cases, it also involves communication difficulties. Many people who are on the Autism Spectrum also have unusual sensory interests and sensitivities as well as learning difficulties. It is estimated that around 1% of people in Australia are on the Autism Spectrum and there are significantly more boys than girls.

Children on the Spectrum have a wide range of abilities, strengths and difficulties. Some children show impressive abilities in specific areas. All children are different including children with ASD. We used to think of the different presentations of ASD as distinct disorders. The term ASD is now used which helps to emphasise the range of disorders that covers a continuum or spectrum.

Early intervention or treatment of young children is usually recommended so that issues and barriers can be addressed quickly, providing the best opportunity for the child to achieve their potential. Therapies often recommended for children with ASD include speech pathology, psychology, behavioural interventions and occupational therapy (OT).

OT treatment at home

For families overwhelmed with a heavy schedule of assessments and treatments, as well as the demands in other aspects of their lives, occupational therapy treatment given at home can help to ease the burden.

Childworks is able to provide assessment and treatment for children on the Autism Spectrum

Childworks OTs are child and family focused. They can assist children in managing every day tasks (or occupations), sensory and coordination issues, as well as some of the behavioural and coordination difficulties, that often accompany ASD.

Every day activities form the basis for OT. Occupational therapists are expert in modifying activities and environments to assist children to achieve their maximum potential. Barriers such as sensory and coordination issues can be evaluated in relation to the impact on the tasks or occupations the child needs to perform. Activity or occupation is often used to help overcome a barrier. Where possible we design the activities used as therapy to be fun!

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Should my child see an Occupational Therapist?

Referral to an OT is appropriate if a child has difficulties with play, self-care, or school tasks such as handwriting or maintaining attention in class. It may also be appropriate if you are concerned about changes in the child’s life, such as starting school. Additionally it may be appropriate to see and OT if your child has sensory or coordination difficulties.

Sometimes children with ASD need additional help to participate in every day activities. This help might be in the form of modification of the activity, the environment, training in specific skills, provision of equipment or range of other interventions.

What is involved when a child sees a Childworks Occupational Therapist?

When you call Childworks, we will arrange a time for an initial assessment. The assessment will take around 1.5 to 2 hours and will involve observation discussion of the child’s motor, social and cognitive development. Standardised assessments may also be used. With your approval, the Childworks OT may contact other people in your child’s life, for example your child’s school, preschool or day care and other health professionals. Discussions with these people will provide the OT with a greater understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, development and behaviour. A visit to school, preschool or day care may also be arranged if necessary. OTs work with the family and community to help the child learn new ways to develop skills.

How is Childworks different?

Like all professionals, each practice has its own approach. Childworks focuses on a functional approach, that is, we emphasise practical aspects of your child’s life and help them to maximise their potential in those areas.

For example, if your morning routine is a problem we will analyse what is going on with that routine. We may modify the environment removing distractions for you child and adding prompts to help him or her with their independent self care. We may help your child to develop specific skills in dressing or eating, we may provide some guidance on how you as a parent can modify the routine and use behavioural tools to overcome issues.

We will identify a problem and use a number of interventions, including using your child’s own strengths to overcome those issues. Clinical research supports this approach.

Treatments can very enormously! They may involve using toys, participating in daily activities, providing information to parents or caregivers or even a trip to the shops. We design an individual programme to help your child to achieve their full potential.

As much as possible, we try to see children with ASD in their own environment. This helps them to develop skills in the location they will need them. It also helps us to identify any other factors that may be impacting on your child’s function.

What funding is available?

If your child has a formal diagnosis from a paediatrican, a range of funding options may be available including the FaHCSIA, Helping Children with Autism package. Some Medicare items may also be available. Private health funding can be an option but is generally quite limited. A formal diagnosis may not be required to use your private health fund.

The range of options available can be confusing . Please feel free to contact Childworks for more information.

How do I make an appointment with a Childworks occupational therapist?

You can call on 0418447072 and make a time for an appointment. Alternatively you can us the contact page on this website or just email Childworks at help @ (remove spaces which have been added to reduce spam).