Fidgets/stims and ADHD

I attended a course on Saturday with a friendly bunch of counsellors - on each table there were 'pop-it' type fidget toys, play-doh and other such items to fidget with during the day if the need arose. We are counsellors, after all, so we embrace diversity in the work environment. But it did get me thinking, what is the world of work actually like if you have to ‘fidget’?


Traditional views 

Whilst many have a traditional view of ADHD as a hyperactive child unable to sit still and running around, how can the hyper part present in an adult? For many adults who have ADHD (diagnosed or not) or even ASD, fidgeting (also sometimes referred to as stimming) can provide a way of comfort to the body or is simply a compulsion to move.  Many adults have spent much of their adult life masking, knowing the social nuances of not being able to just walk around in meetings or a course without looks or stares. 

So, it got me thinking of where that energy will go when someone holds in the compulsion to move or denies the comfort to themselves to soothe any, for example, rising anxiety? Imagine an itch on your nose and being unable to scratch it - for some, this would prove impossible and yet if you knew everyone may frown when you do it, you may learn to concentrate so much not to. Whilst your brain is fighting the urge to itch, can you even take in the course or lecture?

What can companies do to help? 

It seems more and more companies and workplaces are becoming aware of the need to move away from traditional ‘sit still’ environments. Some provide time-out spaces and movement breaks are seen as a necessity for all and actively encouraged. But what more can companies or workplaces do? These were just some of my thoughts: 

  • Fidget toys in meetings and courses, why not? For example, adult fidget toys can be smaller and more discrete such as company-branded stress balls or click toys in toned-down colours from the primary or luminous ones for children.
  • Can internal, or indeed external meetings, be 'walking' meetings? Can we introduce technology to record notes to avoid the need for desks, paper and pens?
  • More colours on the table when it comes to the traditional pens and paper, even the subtle changing of each pen can create more movement and colour stimulation.
  • Agreeing at the start of a course to include more breaks, or even normalising walking or standing up when required (this is probably most welcomed for a number of individuals without neurodiversity anyway).

I wonder what experiences everyone is having these days - perhaps the online world post-Covid has helped with meetings and courses where the fidgets can't be seen by everyone anyway if we are all on Zoom? No one knows if their leg is jigging away if it's not on screen.

In counselling – acceptance is key

What you will find coming to counselling, is the majority (and certainly, my space) will welcome neurodiverse fidgets, stims and movement without judgement. In fact, counselling welcomes all of this with neurodiversity at the heart of it too, because sometimes nerves alone mean I reach to click a pen! 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Southampton SO16 & Chandlers Ford SO53
Written by Zaenia Rogers
Southampton SO16 & Chandlers Ford SO53

I am an Integrative Counsellor, not specialising just in ADHD, but personal knowledge of living alongside it in my household has meant I've acquired a lot of experience and knowledge and look to pass this on where possible. I have also worked extensively with clients with low self esteem, anxiety and depression.

Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with ADHD

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals