Schools in a Spin: Teachers, parents debate use of fidget spinners in classrooms, by Allison Slater Tate

A friend who lives in a different state recently asked me if my children had “fidget spinners” yet. I had never heard of a fidget spinner, so she showed me a picture of the palm-sized gadgets and told me that supposedly, they could help some kids focus while they play with them.

The next day, my 14-year-old son wandered into my bedroom to ask me a question, and I noticed something in his hand. “What’s that?” I asked him. “My fidget spinner,” he said casually. “I bought it on Amazon a few weeks ago.”

Two things became apparent: I no longer know everything my child is buying for himself on Amazon, and fidget spinners are officially a thing. And they are: Mandy Wideman, a mother of three in Alabama, told TODAY Parents, “They’re huge here in Birmingham! I just drove to two stores tonight to look for them. One had sold out and the other one said they had sold over 200 today and over 2500 in the last week!”

Amy Fortenberry / Amy Fortenberry Florida mom Amy Fortenberry says of fidget spinners, “What’s started out as a focus or attention device for children with ADHD has become a fad and a craze. Bottle flipping is so 2016!”

Soon, my own children were begging for more fidget spinners in various colors, one of my children’s teachers began keeping a supply of them in her desk to hand out to kids who could benefit from using them in class, and articles began popping up all over my Facebook feed, most notably a first-person essay in Working Mother by Christina Bolusi Zawacki entitled, “I’m a Teacher, and Trust Me When I Say That Fidget Spinners Are the Effing Worst.”

It seems that fidget spinners — which some teens are also making themselves in their garages out of bicycle chains or on 3-D printers — are the new slime-making or bottle-flipping craze, dividing parents and teachers as to whether they are good or bad for kids and their classroom environments. Some parents believe children with ADHD benefit from having a fidget spinner (or a related item, such as a fidget cube or tactile putty) in class with them, but because they can cause classroom distractions, some schools are instituting bans.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)


Increased levels of fluoride in drinking water linked to higher ADHD rates, by Gabriela Motroc


New research shows there is a strong connection between increased levels of fluoride in drinking water and the prevalence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the United States.

The study titled Exposure to fluoridated water and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States: an ecological association study published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Health discovered that a one per cent increase in artificial fluoridation prevalence in 1992 was linked to roughly 67,000 to 131,000 extra ADHD diagnoses from 2003 to 2011. The research went back to fluoridation in 1992, emphasizing the harmful effects which exist some two decades later.

The team of researchers analysed information from the U.S. National Survey of Children’s Health related to children aged between four gathered over several years. A couple of months after the study was released the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced they would reduce the amount of fluoride in drinking water; the recommended range is currently of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

According to the study, U.S. states with a higher portion of artificially fluoridated water had a higher prevalence of ADHD. The link held up across six years examined. One of the study’s authors, Ashley Malin of York University, Toronto with expertise in Clinical Psychology emphasized the importance of wealth in this equation. “Wealth is important to take into account because the poor are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD,” Newsweek cited Malin as saying.

Multiple studies have indicated that children with moderate and severe fluorosis score lower on measure of IQ and cognitive skills. A 2010 report by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 41 per cent of American youths aged between 12 and 15 had some form of fluorosis. There have been roughly 40 studies showing that children born in regions where water has elevated levels of fluoride have lower-than-normal IQs.

A recent small study of fewer than 1,000 people in New Zealand concluded that water fluoridation did not decrease IQ. However, only a small percentage of the people involved in the research actually lived their entire lives in areas without fluoridation and even less did not use fluoride toothpaste, which may have limited the validity and relevance of the findings.

(Read more at the following link…)

Dyspraxia, A Parent’s Perspective, by Tania Broadley

Dyspraxia Collage

I have four children, all girls.  Katie is 10, Emma 6 and my younger twin girls, Jamie and Alyssa, have just turned four. Three of my girls have dyspraxia.  Emma also has ADHD.  Jamie does not have dyspraxia.  [For more information about ADHD, attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, see The Forever Years post at the following link:  ]

Dyspraxia is one of many “hidden” special needs.  It is a neurological (brain and nerves) disorder in which messages from the brain to the muscles are disrupted, thus effecting physical and gross motor skills– movement and co-ordination.  Early intervention with occupational therapy, physical therapies and sometimes speech therapy help children with dyspraxia to reach their potential. [Source: Medical Questions and Answers, Australian Women’s Weekly, New Zealand Edition, February 2014].

Bringing up children with unique needs is mentally, physically and emotionally draining for me.  On the good days it can be very rewarding.  I feel a real sense of achievement when I overcome challenges.  Katie was diagnosed as having dyspraxia at the age of five and Emma at about four years old.  Alyssa is under Vera Hayward [Children’s Support Programme] and at this stage her dyspraxia seems to be mild.  I did not realise that Emma had dyspraxia until I was pregnant with the twins!

Some days can be overwhelming, juggling four girls, hospital appointments, dyspraxia and ADHD.  Other days I feel relaxed and confident.

My husband and I used to avoid a lot of social gatherings with the girls, because we found it too stressful and we felt judged because of their behaviour (like outbursts of temper).  Meeting other parents in similar situations to ours has given us the confidence to go back out on family social outings again.  It is also very comforting to know that there are other families out there with multiple (twins, triplets or more) children and unique needs, like ours.

Our girls are a true blessing to my husband and I.  I look forward to seeing what journey they each take in life.  They have made me a stronger, more confident mother and I’m so very proud of them all.

Thanks to Tania Broadley for sharing her family’s story with “The Forever Years”.

Dyspraxia 2 Collage

Some Further Information about Dyspraxia…

Developmental Dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder and the Clumsy Child Syndrome) is a neurologically based disorder of the processes involved in “praxis” or the planning of movement to achieve a predetermined idea or purpose, which may affect the acquisition of new skills and the execution of those already learned. More specifically, it is a disorder of praxis, or the process of “ideation” (forming an idea of using a known movement to achieve a planned purpose), motor planning (planning the action needed to achieve the idea) and execution (carrying out the planned movement).

Dyspraxia may affect any or all areas of development– physical, intellectual, emotional, social, language and sensory– and may impair the normal process of learning, thus it is also a learning difficulty.  It is not a unitary disorder (like measles or chicken pox, where all those affected share a common set of symptoms) and affects each person in different ways at different ages and stages of development and to different degrees.  It is inconsistent, in that it may affect the child one day, but not the next– as if information is sometimes put away “in the wrong drawer”.

Dyspraxia is a “hidden handicap” as, under normal circumstances, children with dyspraxia may appear no different from their peers, until new skills are tried or known ones are taken out of context, which is when difficulties may become apparent.

In many affected children, dyspraxia occurs with or as part of other neurological conditions, so defining common symptomsdownload may be confusing.  Therefore a diagnosis, naming the disorder is often very difficult and sometimes the closest may be “shows some dyspraxic tendencies”.  A major international, multi-disciplinary conference on dyspraxia was held here in Aotearoa/ New Zealand in 1997, making it easier for parents to find a professional who is confident in making a diagnosis. If you think that your child exhibits some or all of the symptoms of dyspraxia, talk with your GP or peadiatrition about your concerns.

The following is information for teachers and others interecting with children with dyspraxia to be aware of…



Related Links/ Information

New Zealand Dyspraxia Support Group:

Australian Dyspraxia Support Foundation:

Dyspraxia USA, resources:

Dyspraxia Foundation, UK (has some great film clips about living with dyspraxia for adults and for kids:

Dyspraxia Association of Ireland:

Facebook Support Page for families:



“If You Look for the Goodness in Your Children, Good Things Will Happen”, by Linda Petersen

After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Linda Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children and fostered many others. This book is the story of their journey.

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog

My dear friends and readers,

Please excuse this commercial interruption of your regular reading.

My book, with an actual cover and pages with WORDS on them in between, has just been published!!!

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen

(Review by Dawn Raffel from Readers Digest:)
Her story begins not with her children but with her own childhood spent traveling the country in the backseat of her parents’ car (her perpetually restless dad had post-traumatic stress disorder from WWII), often with very little money and few provisions. Where someone else might have seen deprivation and isolation, Petersen viewed her unusual childhood with a sense of wonder and gratitude. After marrying young and giving birth to a son who was legally blind (and who went on to earn a PhD on full scholarship), Petersen and her husband adopted four more special needs children…

View original post 232 more words

Discover “Relax Kids”, an interview with Danielle Culling, a “Relaxed Kids” Coach

Relax Kids Collage

By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Relax Kids is a movement started by Marneta Viegas, a children’s entertainer in the United Kingdom.  Over her 13 years working in this occupation, she noticed an increasing number of children being unable to sit still whilst attending her performances.  Since she had been practising mindfulness herself from the age of 10, Viegas hit upon the idea of turning fairy stories into CDs for kids and then creating a seven step programme of children’s exercises, starting with high activity, then working through to those involving stretching and relaxation.  Thus “Relax Kids” was born in 2001.  Since then the programme has expanded and is now being used in over 30 countries.

advert2I recently spoke with Danielle Culling, a “Relax Kids” coach in Dunedin, New Zealand.

“Relax Kids” is fairly new to Aotearoa/ New Zealand,” Danielle says.  “There are only three of us trained as instructors here.  It would be great to have more!  The Southern District Health Board are interested in promoting Relax Kids.  Basically the programme involves a series of ‘visualisations’ using stories based on nature settings and fairy stories.  The aim of this is to take children to a calm and happy place and help them to manage their feelings, including increasing concentration and reducing anxiety”.

Danielle says that there are different levels of Relax Kids programmes for children of different ages, ranging from under 5 year olds (Little Star Classes) to those aimed at teenagers. The courses can also benefit adults.    “Several schools have become interested in Relax Kids,” she says, “and some have started to use the CDs and books on a daily basis.  Withadvert8 the older kids we do what we call “chill skills” and also keep diaries so that they can begin to monitor their own moods and mood changes.  Relating moods to their physical symptoms is important too: for example, noticing that when you’re angry you can feel it in your stomach or in the clenching of your fists.  Focusing on the physical area of stress in the body can be a good first step in releasing anger in a non-harmful way.”

Training for those who wish to do Relax Kids Coaching will start to happen in Aotearoa/ New Zealand several times a year, around the country, Danielle says. (For those not in New Zealand, google your nearerst Relax Kids centre).

“Relax Kids can be particularly helpful for kids with ADHD or anxiety disorders,” Danielle says.  “Amongst other things there is a “21 Day plan” for habit change (which is believed to take about 21 days).  The 21 day plan is a free, downloadable document for both parents and teachers. It is available at  and there are lots of other free downloads available on the website too.   As well as this, one on one instruction can be offered to families who wish to participate together in their home.”

“Relax Kids is not affiliated with any religion.  Some have called it ‘brainwashing through meditation’, which is not the case at all.  It’s about slowing down: the world we live in is so often fast paced and frantic, certainly in a way that was never the case in previous generations.  This can be overwhelming for us all and kids can find it particularly difficult to cope with, especially when it is in combination with other stressful factors.  ‘Mindfulness’ means to be present with ourselves and aware of what is going on.  Benefits include increased motivation and confidence, better sleeping patterns, as well as an improvement in empathy and concentration.”

Danielle & Alba FY

Danielle Culling (Relax Kids Instructor) with her daughter Alba (3)

Newspaper Article about Danielle Culling and Relax Kids:

Related Links:

Also see the Relax Kids Facebook Page 🙂

Understanding Kids with ADHD… an interview with a mother who knows…

ADHD Collage

…an interview with a mother who knows…

By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a complex mental health disorder that can affect a child’s success in school and interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, the symptoms of ADHD vary and are sometimes difficult to recognize.  I recently interviewed Cheryl*, a mother of three whose eldest son Thomas* age seven, was diagnosed as having ADHD last year.

What are the main identifying behavioural markers for a child with ADHD?

imagesSome signs of ADHD include inattentiveness, lack of concentration and an inability to focus and stay focused or follow instructions.  With my son Thomas, excitement is always over exaggerated.  We also became concerned that, from about age four, he showed a complete lack of empathy.  It was around this age that my husband and I and other members of our family began to sense that something was “not quite as it normally would be” with our son… we could see the differences between him and other children his age and also ways in which he was not at all like his two younger siblings, who are close to him in age.

How long did take for your son to be diagnosed as having ADHD?

It took 6-8 months to get Thomas’ diagnosis– we were told it’s never a quick thing.  The experts want to be 100% certain before they tell a parent or carer, “yes, we have diagnosed your child as having ADHD.”  In the past, some children have been incorrectly diagnosed.  This can lead to big problems for those opting to medicate, as the ADHD meds are quite specific to the condition.

What has been the biggest challenge since your son was diagnosed with ADHD?

The empathy thing bothered me.  Other kids fight with their siblings, but Thomas was really unremorseful and Burglaryinconsiderate of the feelings of his younger siblings or other children.  He cried as a baby, but never really cried much past about 18 months old.  I remember him crying over getting a bee sting and that’s about it, I don’t remember him crying many other times at all, not even if he fell over… I thought that was odd for a toddler.

I also remember that, from quite early on, Thomas would do what we call the “octopus run”.  It was basically a wild, crazy run which didn’t stop and his arms would be swinging out everywhere like an octopus.  He wouldn’t ever sit down and play with toys… he couldn’t seem to.  (He was a kid with “added value”… I heard that from a lady in my ADHD support group).  🙂  But it was hard to take him out to other people’s places or in public with him flailing around like that, especially when we had two younger children to watch too.

Is ADHD genetic?

Not enough research has been done yet to know for certain whether or not ADHD is an inherited trait.  It’s a bit similar to the case with asthmatic children, it’s not known for certain what causes ADHD (or asthma).

Is ADHD more common in boys or girls?

Kids with ADHD tend to be predominantly boys, no one is quite sure why.  There are definately girls out there with ADHD too.  ADHD presents differently in different children and ADHD markers in girls are often (but not necessarily) a bit more muted than in boys.


What do you think life is like through the eyes of a child with ADHD?

You know how it is when you get flustered… like if several people are trying to get your attention all at once, so you can’t take in what anyone is saying… well, that’s what it’s like for kids with ADHD all the time.  Their brains are wired faster than most people’s, so much so that they try to process everything very quickly and all at once, leading to overload.  Some opt to medicate after a diagnosis.

How does having ADHD effect Thomas’ behaviour now, at age seven, both at school and at home?

images (1)At school and at home both it is hard for him to pay attention.  Thomas is “busy” all the time, probably the only “quieter” time he has is when he’s asleep.  He’s also very unpredictable… you never know when he’s going to be angry.  As his Mum, I find it hard to get him to stop and hear what I’m saying, to “pull him back into focus.”  His teachers have also struggled with that.  His concentration is now up to 3 minutes, which we’re thrilled with, as prior to diagnosis it was only 3-5 seconds. I was actually delighted when Thomas was diagnosed… I know some people don’t like to label their kids, but for me it meant we could move forward.  Before the diagnosis I’d been blaming myself for his challenging behaviour.  Afterwards I was able to link in to helpful resources so our family could relate better to Thomas… and vice versa.

We joined a local ADHD support group which has been an immeasurable help.  The group organiser talked about teenagersimages with ADHD who use it as an excuse, saying things like “I’m unmanageable”.  I find it helpful that the ethos of the group is that “ADHD is not an excuse for bad behaviour.  ADHD is a part of life.”  I like that: it gives power back to Thomas… his brain may process some things differently from those who do not have ADHD, but he is still responsible for his behaviour.  He is receiving as much help as we are able to give him, he has an RTLB [Resource Teacher for Learning and Behaviour] at school, who spends time with Thomas’ class teacher (so that she is up to speed with what it means to have ADHD), as well as with Thomas.  A routine and structure have been put in place for him and we liaise with the RTLB so we can create similar patterns for Thomas at home.  When he’s at home, Thomas does need more supervision that the average kid, just to keep him on task.  That can be hard when I have my two younger ones to think of as well.

At school part of Thomas’ routine is being constantly reminded of what’s coming up.  One way of doing this is that his RTLB teacher has created a “visual timetable” with pictures of him doing particular activities like writing or eating lunch.  If your concentration span is only three minutes, it can be easy to get off task.  The visual timetable always has the three simple categories “Now, Next and Later”, so Thomas always knows where he’s at.  Reading and writing are a constant struggle for Thomas.  Since the diagnosis, we also have a health care worker come into our home for three hours a week to help Thomas with his homework.

Doggy BookOne of my favourite resources from the group we joined was the book All Dogs Have ADHD by Kathy Hoopmann.  I particularly like this book because it is aimed at the children who have ADHD, to help them understand and take responsibility for their own behaviour… and it seemed to resonate with Thomas from the moment I gave it to him.

The book talks about how ADHD kids often have a “special interest” which can help them maintain focus and create opportunities for praise and encouragement.  Thomas’ passion at the moment is Lego.  The Pediatrician told us not to take Thomas’ Lego away as a form of discipline (which we had done before), but that other methods like quiet time were more effective.  Thomas also needs instant rewards or praise when things have gone well and if we want to encourage more positive behaviour in the future.  We can’t just tell him that we’ll take him out somewhere nice “in the weekend”, he’ll have completely forgotten the whole thing by then.

I guess it’s about “channeling him” into positive activities he’s passionate about and making his energy a plus.  Thomas is still quite impulsive, if he sees something which interests him (like a cat, he loves cats), even if it’s on the other side of a busy street, he’ll run across without thinking about any possible consequences.  I know lots of people will say, “My child doesn’t focus, my child would run out into traffic like that,” but this is constant, it’s part of a typical day for us.

Thomas struggles to remember things and makes the same mistakes over and over again.  He laughed when he saw the dog in the book that does that and I laughed too.  Now there’s a shared understanding of the behaviour in our family.  20150311_105844

I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work with Thomas now.  One of the most basic things is that, when I’m giving him instructions, he needs to be totally focused on what I’m saying.  If he hasn’t “got my eyes” (I mean if he isn’t focused and looking at my eyes), he won’t hear what I’m saying.  That’s not because he’s malicious, it’s part of the ADHD… it’s who he is.

Through our support group, we have met a number of teenagers and adults with ADHD.  I found that helpful, particularly seeing how, with the right help and strategies, these people have been able to manage their lives.  The young adults, I noticed, are past doing things like “the octopus run”… I think some of the hyperactivity mellows with age.  But they still speak very quickly and “fiddle”… one young woman had some beads she was playing with, which seemed to help keep her focused and grounded during group discussions.

Aside from the book you’ve mentioned already, and your group, what other resources have been useful to you?

512MJP0C7YLI’ve learned a lot from other books and also from the Internet… some useful links are listed below.  Another book I’ve found useful is 123 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan.  123 Magic is a general parenting book and helpful for anyone, but there’s also a lot in there specifically about ADHD, as one of the editors has a child with ADHD.

Does ADHD mix well with computers?

In general, it’s not thought to be good for children with ADHD to spend time on strategy and fighting-type computer games.  I know with Thomas, he’ll see something like that just once and then act it out EXACTLY for the next week or so.  Again, many parents may comment here that this is what their non-ADHD child does, but with Thomas it’s all the time, just seeing a game like that once will ignite “fireworks” in his brain and he will “be” the game for days afterwards.  If Thomas gets on an “energy high” like this it requires high energy from me to focus him on the real world.  He’s like having twins when he’s in this kind of phase.  I don’t believe in banning kids from computers all together though, they are part of the world we now live in.  In Thomas’ case we just have to be selective in what he does on the computer: “learning” type games seem to help him come to grips with things taught at school, they’re definately a better option for him.

Do certain foods effect Thomas’ ADHD at all?  Did you make any changes to his diet after the diagnosis?

It’ll be different for each child, but we learned early on that we can’t give Thomas fizzy drinks… not at all.  He’s quite unmanageable until they come out of his system.  Anything with too much sugar isn’t great.  Of course it goes through his system and he settles down again afterwards, but it’s a very unpleasant experience for anyone having to deal with him in the couple of hours before this happens.

How does ADHD effect Thomas’ friendships with other children?

Although he’s seven, Thomas’ behaviour is in many respects similar to that of a three year old.  He’s well known but not well liked at school and he doesn’t very often get invited to play at friends’ houses.  Boys Thomas’ age seem to like things like sword fights, board games and dress ups.  Thomas is behaviourally still at the “parallel play” stage many three year olds are at.  Rather than the activities I’ve mentioned above, Thomas will prefer something like playing with cars on his own.  This can isolate him from his peers.

He does have one friend at school, but they have a kind of “love/hate” relationship.  His friend is on the autistic spectrum and, like Thomas, can have very erratic behaviour.  I personally believe both boys need a teacher aid all the time, but there aren’t the resources available for this.  Anyway, I think Thomas definately tends to gravitate towards other “special needs” kids.adhd-sleep-deprivation-2

What advice would you give to a parent or carer who suspects their child may have ADHD?

If you’re ripping your hair out and need help the best thing, in my opinion, is to get a diagnosis, because help then follows. Groups are great, the one I go to is monthly and there are also Tuesday morning teas in our area for mothers of children with special needs.  “Special needs…”  that’s a term I’m getting used to.  Initially I didn’t like the idea of calling Thomas a “special needs” child… but his needs are different to those of children who don’t have ADHD, particularly in the classroom.  I’m still learning as we continue on this journey with Thomas.  Sometimes I wonder which behaviours of his are part of ADHD and which are just normal “kid behaviours”.  If the behaviour is related to him having ADHD, I then wonder to what degree I can modify it and slowly replace it with more “normal” behaviour.  For example, if he’s doing his “octopus run” and speeding wildly across the room, to what degree can I change that, particularly if it’s part of his genetic makeup?  If anyone out there has any ideas about these kinds of questions, particularly based on experience with ADHD kids, I’d love to hear from you!

*NOTE: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of Cheryl and her family.  Many thanks to Cheryl for sharing her son Thomas’ story with “The Forever Years”.