Fidgeting Helps Children With ADHD Learn, Study Suggests

First Posted: Apr 17, 2015 10:51 PM EDT

It makes sense that children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) would be more likely to fidget, but could this behavior also be particularly beneficial for them?

New findings published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology reveal that swinging their legs around more or excessively tapping on a table or the like could help them remember information, solve complex problems or partake in certain social situations later in life.

Researchers said their latest findings suggest that the traditional methods for helping people with ADHD might actually be a bit counterproductive. Could more natural instincts be a better way?

The study included 52 boys between the ages of 8 and 12, 29 of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD and another 23 who had no clinical disorders.

Each child was asked to perform a series of tasked that engaged working memory, with children shown a series of jumbled numbers and letters that were flashed onto a computer screen in order followed by a letter. A high-speed camera recorded the children's observations and their every movement.

"The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It's exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD," lead researcher Mark Rapport, the head of the Children's Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida, said in a news release. "The message isn't 'Let them run around the room,' but you need to be able to facilitate their movement so they can maintain the level of alertness necessary for cognitive activities."

"What we've found is that when they're moving the most, the majority of them perform better," Rapport added. "They have to move to maintain alertness."

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