A recently-released study suggests that children with ADHD may perform better on tasks that require concentration if they are allowed to participate in hyperactive movements.
Researchers for the study looked at how a grouping of boys, aged 8 to 12, responded to being asked to repeat back a random sequence of letters and numbers, all while being allowed to swivel in their chairs. Those who had an official diagnosis of ADHD performed better on the task when allowed to move in the chairs. However, those who did not have ADHD showed the opposite result, with lower performance results on the task the more they moved in the chairs, writes Anya Kamenetz for NPR.
“We think that part of the reason is that when they’re moving more they’re increasing their alertness,” said lead author of the study Dustin Sarver at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
According to the most recent scientific theories concerning ADHD, the cause is a chronic understimulation of the brain, which is why stimulants are believed to help in treatment. Sarver added that the physical movement acts in much the same way as Ritalin, and as a result aiding in cognitive functioning. However, this alertness acts on a “rainbow curve,” which is why movement did not help the typically developing children, but instead distracted them.
While most classroom management techniques focus on asking children to sit still, based on the theory that doing so will help them to think better, Sarver maintains that allowing children with ADHD to move around as needed, as long as it is not a distraction to the other students, would be beneficial for them, writes Carolyn Gregoire for The Huffington Post.
“When I tell a kid, ‘Sit down, don’t move, stop tapping, stop bouncing,’ the kids are spending all their mental energy concentrating on that rule. And that doesn’t allow them to concentrate on what we’re asking them to do, which is their homework.”
It is estimated that about 3-5% of school-age children around the world have ADHD, according to Dr. Michael Kofler, director of the Children’s Learning Clinic in the Psychology Department of Florida State University. He added that children who were involved in a residential treatment program which used physical movement to stimulate the brain showed significant improvement.
“For kids with ADHD in particular, the movement seems to be helpful. Our recent study, which is a collaboration with my colleagues at the University of Central Florida, Florida International and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, actually found that kids with ADHD remember more and can process more things when they’re moving more, relative to when they’re moving less.”