Fidgeting is common among people with ADHD. It used to be thought that fidgeting was a behavior that should be extinguished as much as possible, but recent studies have found that structured fidgeting can actually help people with ADHD. Simple, mindless, repetitive actions can help those with ADHD to focus on tasks that they would normally find difficult to pay attention to. People with ADHD tend to have difficulty with “single tasking”, and feel the need to be doing multiple things at once. Through structured fidgeting, those with ADHD are able to preocupy this need for multitasking and free up other senses to focus on things like lectures and reading.
In the introduction of the book Fidget to Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADD, the authors introduce the story of a woman who struggled in graduate school and found that playing a Nintendo game while listening to audio books helped her to focus and retain information from the audio books. This kind of multitasking may seem counterintuitive to those without ADHD, and in fact, studies have shown that this kind of fidgeting is typically unhelpful and distracting for those who do not have ADHD.
Every individual may have a different kind of fidget that works for him/her. Some people focus better while listening to music, some do well with rocking chairs, and others do well with simple toys to preocupy their hands while they focus on listening to someone speak. I personally enjoy folding origami while I do other tasks such as reading or listening to lectures. I keep some of my origami in my offices and clients often ask me about it. There are several simple origami projects that with a little practice, one can easily do without even looking at your hands. My favorite origami fidget is folding lucky stars. I folded these throughout gradschool and I often teach kids how to make them as a fidget. The following is a video tutorial for making lucky stars.