Many parents and teachers can attest that asking a child with ADHD to sit still is like asking the sun not to shine. It just isn’t going to happen.
And that might be OK.
According to research from the University of Central Florida, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to learn if they’re allowed to let their wiggles out.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, found that children with ADHD often need to move, whether that means tapping their feet or shuffling around in their chair, in order to remember and solve complex cognitive assignments.
The study comes during a time that’s seen an increase of interest surrounding ADHD. According to the CDC, 11 percent of American children between the ages of 4 and 17 (approximately 6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD. And it’s an escalating trend. In 2003, only 7.8 percent of children had an ADHD diagnosis.
Similarly, the debate surrounding how schoolteachers and parents should approach ADHD in children has also been hotly contested.
“Medication is very, very effective, and it can really have important improvements for symptoms immediately,” said Susanna Visser, lead epidemiologist of child development studies at the CDC. “But it’s not the right choice for everyone, and particularly for the youngest children.”
Research from the UCF study indicates there is another way.
“The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity,” said Mark Rapport, one of the study’s authors. “It’s exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD.”
Rather than restricting a child’s natural need for movement, Rapport and other researchers suggest letting ADHD children sit on a medicine ball or a stationary bicycle in class, thus allowing them an opportunity to expedite movement and maintain alertness for cognitive activities.
After putting 52 boys ages 8 to 12 through a series of tests designed to analyze their ability to store, manage and carry out complex cognitive tasks, researchers from UCF determined that when ADHD children moved, they scored better.
“What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better,” said Rapport. “They have to maintain alertness."
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