Are fidget spinners a tool or a toy?

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Fidget spinners were a nation-sweeping fad that quickly crept into classrooms. Many parents and teachers wrote them off as distracting a toy, but for some students, they're a tool.

"He gets to be himself," Jamie Van Dorf said of her 12-year-old son. "And everybody else gets to see the Conner that we get to see."

The 7th grader that Jamie gets to see at home, leaves his fidget spinners on the kitchen counter. "If used correctly, and what it's intended for, it's a useful tool," she insisted.

It's a tool Jamie said Conner only ever uses at school or in crowded social situations. He was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and social anxiety last year.

"He withdraws from everybody," she said, describing Conner before they found fidget spinners. "He absolutely hated school. It was a big, big struggle." The fast-spinning object that caught on as America's hottest toy was the key tool, Jamie, said, behind Conner's drastic change in performance at school.

"I feel like he's proud of himself in school to see his grades going from being Cs, to go to As," she said.

"He had almost straight As all year." Conner agreed. He said he likes school better now. "It's not as hard."

"People who actually do have ADHD do obtain some sort of benefit," Dr. Brian Weiland with the Behavioral Health Clinic of Wausau explained. "Actually, [they] perform higher when they are engaged in some way."

Dr. Weiland is a licensed professional counselor. He said a diagnosis is what draws the line where the fidget spinner becomes helpful, or distracting. "A fidget spinner for people who don't have ADHD can actually make performance worse," he explained. "What it does with somebody with ADHD, as I mentioned, it quiets the noise."

"It makes kind of a noise that helps me concentrate when I'm trying to do my homework and stuff," Conner said.

At home, Conner trades his fidget spinners for his art, a school subject that's always been in focus. Now relieved of all other outside stress and distractions, Conner can focus on being a kid.