If you thought that telling a kid with ADHD to try and sit still while learning was a good idea, think again! According to researchers at the University of Central Florida, the more ADHD kids move around while doing complex cognitive tasks, the better. So, finger tapping, squirming, and fidgeting are vital to help them learn.
Let ADHD kids fidget
Similar research at the MIND institute in California tested a number of teens who had ADHD. They had to keep an eye on arrows which were darting from one side to another. They had devices attached to their ankles which recorded how much they moved around while doing the test. The kids who had been the most restless got the best scores. This suggests that physical activity helps the cognitive processes when concentrating, paying attention, and learning. As long as they do not disturb the class, ADHD kids should be allowed to jiggle and fidget as much as they want to.
“Parents and teachers shouldn’t try to keep them still. Let them move while they are doing their work or other challenging cognitive tasks.” — Professor Julie Schweitzer, Director of UC Davis ADHD Program.
Why classrooms need activity balls and exercise bikes
When ADHD kids make use of secondary activities such as doodling, wriggling, or balancing on an activity/stability ball, their focus and attention are improved. Let us hope that more schools will buy activity balls and use these instead of desks for the ADHD kids.
Another research study showed that ADHD kids were able to stay longer on the task and were less hyperactive when they were on stability balls. It also revealed that teachers were happier too because both teaching and learning benefited. Parents should also use these balls at home to help their kids get through their homework with less stress.
Ask your child’s teacher to help
Did you know that there are arrangements under the ADHD accommodations to allow a child with ADHD to actually move around and stand when he or she wants to? Have a word with the teacher. Some schools allow a child to have two desks so that they can move from one to the other.
The importance of recesses and getting into the open air cannot be overestimated. Discuss with the teacher what sorts of punishment should be avoided, such as detention. Encourage the use of some physical activity and make sure that no kids are banned from sports just because of poor grades.
“Physical exercise may be the single most powerful somatic treatment for ADD that we have.” — Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADHD expert and author.
Why ADHD kids need to move and exercise more
Think of movement as a way of helping to switch on a child’s brain. They can focus better, recall more accurately and pay attention for longer.
Research in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology has highlighted this aspect of children’s education. They asked children to do 20 minutes on a treadmill or to choose a quiet game while sitting down. Afterwards, all the kids who had been more physically active were doing better on test scores than their companions who had been sitting still.
Think of exercise as a way of triggering certain areas of the brain which help kids to follow sequences, remember things, help to prioritize and keeping attention levels high. Actually, this benefits all kids, whether they have ADHD or not.
“Physical exercise is really for our brains.” — Dr. John Ratey, ADHD expert
The way forward
ADHD experts are now convinced that exercise and movement can complement existing therapies and medication. But it does not look like this will happen anytime soon. The increase in ADHD diagnosis has surged by about 42% in the last eight years. Prescriptions for ADHD meds are rising steadily at a rate of 6% per year and show no sign of abating.
What a pity there are no entrepreneurs out there who could exploit and profit from providing more exercise opportunities for kids with ADHD? Now that would really make a difference to how children with ADHD could learn faster and better.
Featured photo credit: Izach’s class Mrs. Squires/ au_tiger 01 via flickr.com