In defense of distracting fidget toys

One problem with the way stim/fidget toys are discussed is that there’s often a false dichotomy drawn between good fidgets that help people to focus, and bad fidgets that distract people. Focus is not the only legitimate reason to use a stim toy.  

Further, being focused on your surroundings isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes, the main reason a stim toy is useful is *because* it is distracting.  For instance, some people use stim toys to distract themselves from trauma triggers. When an environment is triggering, it can be really helpful to have a way of temporarily ignoring it. 

Some people use stim toys to distract themselves from pain or sensory overload. Distracting stim toys can be a way to take a break without having to leave the room. Fidget spinners in particular often work really well for this.

There are any number of ways to use stim toys. Some uses, like holding a rock in order to remind yourself where your hand is, have little or nothing to do with focus one way or the other. They serve a different purpose. 

We shouldn’t let “they help with focus” be the only use of stim toys we acknowledge as legitimate. The other ways they are used also matter. And sometimes, getting distracted is the whole point.