According to recent studies, children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may in fact be able to learn better in a classroom setting when they are allowed to fidget or move around.
Recently published research from the University of California Davis MIND Institute found that physical activity such as bouncing on a ball or chewing gum appears to allow children with ADHD to maintain better concentration while at school, writes Mandy Morgan for Deseret News.
"The constant movement of children with ADHD may be distracting — but the fidgeting also may improve their cognitive performance," said the study. "The take-away message: The hyperactivity seen in ADHD may help children think."
Researchers performed a trial-by-trial analysis of 26 teens and pre-teens who had been diagnosed with ADHD, as well as a control group of 18 teenagers with normal development. Careful attention was paid to how the children's ability to focus on a task at hand was affected by the intensity and frequency of such movements.
Movements were measured by a device attached to their ankles as the children participated in a "flanker test" which asked participants to follow the direction of a number of arrows while other distractions were around.
According to the results, ADHD students who scored the highest also held the highest amount of movements. No correlation was found between movement and focus in the typically developing children.
Researchers believe that the additional movements allow children with ADHD to use their arousal systems in a more efficient way. "Sometimes they are over-aroused by irrelevant information and at other times, they are under-aroused," said study co-author Julie Schweitzer.
Schweitzer went on to say that the results could help teachers find ways to incorporate such opportunities for movement into their classrooms in order to help children with ADHD better focus, so long as it does not disrupt the other children in the room.
"If a child is sleepy and having a hard time concentrating, take a walk. Don't have them go on the iPad and Google something," Schweitzer told NBC. "Do something physical for a short period of time and come back. That will help them."
An additional study from the University of Mississippi Medical Center performed earlier this year showed similar results. A group of boys between the ages of 8 and 12 were asked to sit in swivel chairs as they completed a number of tasks concerning concentration and reordering numbers. The boys who had been diagnosed with ADHD performed better when allowed to swivel in their chairs, while those who were typically developing generally achieved lower scores the more they moved, writes Tara Haelle for Forbes.
Current data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 11% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have ADHD. The condition makes it difficult to pay attention and to control impulse behavior.