Category Archives: Therapy

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


Child’s Play

Play is a child’s work. It is what they need to do to explore their environment, to understand their own bodies and to experiment with ideas and objects. It is how they learn about themselves and their world.

When children play they experience now ways to solve problems and learn new skills needed to become a healthy adult.

Research suggests that children to engage in 15 minutes of play at recess are better behaved in the classroom and are more likely to learn than children who do not have recess. (Barros, Silver and Stein 2009.

Play does not come easily for all children. Some children have a physical, psychological or cognitive issue which limits their play in some areas. This is where occupational therapy can help.

How You Can Help Your Child to Play


During their first few months, babies enjoy colourful mobiles, rattle and other toys. They also enjoy vocal play such as singing and nursery rhymes or just talking. They may show their enjoyment by moving their arms and legs. Encourage you baby to participate in vocal play and engage with toys. You can encourage you baby to play in different positions, lying on their back, side or tummy.

Tummy time is generally encouraged to assist with child development. Some babies don’t enjoy playing on their tummies. You can help them by singing and presenting toys. If that doesn’t work, you can use an incline, even placing the baby on your chest, to encourage them in this position.

Tummy time

As babies learn to grasp and move on their own, they enjoy playing with mirrors, balls, squeezy toys, water toys, blocks and many things you don’t want them to play with. They may become attached to your car keys, your mobile phone or simply enjoy rummaging through handbags.

Avoid placing your child in an unsupported sitting position before they are ready. Babies can be placed in sitting and maintain the position for a few minutes before they are really ready to sit and there is no benefit in doing that. The important thing is that they can move in and out of sitting by themselves. They may not develop this skill until they are 6 months or older.

Safety is an issue when babies start to move around. Consider his or her environment and remove or control any dangers that may be present. Restraining a child prevents their play and removes opportunities to learn so try to remove risks rather than restrain the child.

Babies are still learning about their bodies and their preferred method of discovery is their mouth. Make sure that any toys they use, not to mention anything they could find to play with, is safe. Small items such as parts of a complex toy can easily become a choking hazard.


Toddlers learn fine motor skills by playing with toys and other items around the house. They love finger painting, play dough and construction toys such as Lego or Duplo. These toys help them to develop fine motor co-ordination.

As children learn to walk and run, they enjoy push toys, pull toys and games such as hide and seek, or climbing around in the playground.


Imitation and pretend play increases during the pre-school years. Children may use dress ups, puppets, dolls or toy cars. Children can sometimes be observed using sticks in imaginative play. At this time they improve all their previous skills. They become better at climbing playground equipment, better at puzzles, better at construction and better at drawing etc.

School Aged Children

Once at school play becomes an important way to get rid of some excess energy so that concentrating in class is easier. Friendships develop as children play and learn together.

Play can become more structured and can include team sports and organised games.

Play is always more fun with someone else and Mum or Dad are the most fun to play with.

You can encourage your child to play by:

  • Engaging in play with your child,
  • Have craft materials ready so the child can participate when he or she wants to,
  • Provide both structured and unstructured play, for example, joining a soccer team and playing in the garden with neighbours.
  • Just like recess, active play after school can help prepare you child for learning.

Don’t forget, play is fun. If it looses the fun factor, it is no longer play!





Travelling with Disabled Children

Travelling with disabled children can be challenging. Here is a new innovation for physically disabled children who need support when flying. The seats in aeroplanes are generally designed for adults. This makes them particularly difficult for some children as they do not provide enough support.

Here is the travel chair, an adjustable seating system for disabled children to use in flight.


Occupational Therapy Week 25-31 Oct 2015

Welcome to occupational therapy week!

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists put out this definition in 2012.

Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. 

What does that mean for my child?

An occupational therapist can help your child to do the things they need to do. We work closely with families and other health practitioners to identify barriers and also identify strengths. For example if a child has difficulty performing school work due to poor co-ordination, visual perception or poor ability to concentrate an OT may be of assistance. We also look at developmental activities such activities that improve a child’s independence. A child may have difficulty with dressing themselves. They may need cues to understand what step comes next, they may need a modified environment to reduce distractions, they may need modification of the activity such as something to help them manage zippers, they may need help to learn specific skills or they may need some other form of assistance.

If your child has difficulty with activities they need to do in their everyday lives, then occupational therapy may help.

How can I find out more about occupational therapy for my child?

Contact Robyne Cottee at Childworks to get information on how Occupational Therapy can help your child.

Is funding available for occupational therapy?

There are various Government funding options depending on your child’s issues and diagnosis. Private health funding may also apply. Please contact Childworks to discuss your options.



Therapy in the Lead Up to Christmas and Holidays


Dropping Energy Levels for School and Therapy

The tinsel goes up and the workbooks go away at this time of year. There is not a lot of highly scholoastic work going on at most schools. As for therapy, some children have had enough by the end of November.  Sometimes a change of therapy can help. If the format changes and some fun, new activities are added, that might be enough to keep your child going until the end of the school year. Other than that, if a child is tired and is winding down, it may be counterproductive to try to force therapy on him or her.  Instead, it may be better to finish up for the year, and maybe schedule a few fun therapy sessions during the holidays. Of course, keep up some fun exercises and some reading throughout the holidays.

Fun Activities for the Holidays

Holidays are a time for fun and games and some of these activities can help with fine motor control, gross motor skills, perception and sensory abilities. Vestibular stimulation is often an important component of therapy. It is often also lots of fun! Why not introduce some balance games during the holidays. Swinging, walking along a wall, climbing monkey bars etc can be great stimulation. The important thing is that you keep the activity fun for the child. You can do some fun fine motor activites as well, such as threading beads. An activity I have found that is fun for boys and similar to threading beads is threading the little plastic fasteners from that you find on loaves of bread, onto electrical cables. You can also turn this (and the bead threading) into a sequencing game by asking your child to copy a sequence of colours! Have you considered the range of sensations available in just going for a swim? Development will continue over the holidays. It may not be as specifically directed as in therapy but the first goal is to have fun. Please contact us if you would like some ideas on holiday activities.

A Great Time to Start Occupational Therapy

If your child has not started therapy yet, this could be an ideal time. When other children are not attending therapy, you may not need to wait as long to see an occupational therapist. You may even be able to secure one of the elusive after school time slots and carry it over to the new year!  Also, your child might be very excited about starting a programme and, rather than loosing energy, may be able to devote more energy to therapy while he or she is winding down at school or getting ready for a new year of school. A few therapy sessions toward the end of the year or in the holidays might set him or her up to do well in the following year.

We wish you all a very happy and safe Christmas and all the best for 2015. We look forward to assisting your child in the new year.

If you would like to find out what appointments are available please call Childworks on 0418 447 072.