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ADHD and Kids: Fidgeting Helps Concentration

First Posted: Jun 11, 2015 11:54 PM EDT

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may actually benefit from fidgeting. New findings published in the journal Child Neuropsychology reveals that this could help to boost cognitive performance, overall.

A study of pre-teens and teenagers with ADHD examined how the intensity of this movement actually correlated with better attention span and better quality performance, overall.

"It turns out that physical movement during cognitive tasks may be a good thing for them," said Julie Schweitzer, professor of psychiatry, director of the UC Davis ADHD Program and study senior author, in a news release.

"Parents and teachers shouldn't try to keep them still. Let them move while they are doing their work or other challenging cognitive tasks," she added. "It may be that the hyperactivity we see in ADHD may actually be beneficial at times. Perhaps the movement increases their arousal level, which leads to better attention."

For the study, they recruited 26 children with validated ADHD diagnoses, including 18 who were developing regularly and served as controls. The research was conducted at the MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif., involving kids between the ages of 10 and 17 years when the study was conducted.

Researchers measured the participants movements to test for focus and found that their ability to concentrate was significantly improved when they were moving. 

"Maybe teachers shouldn't punish kids for movement, and should allow them to fidget as long as it doesn't disturb the rest of the class," concluded Arthur Hartanto, a study coordinator with the ADHD Program and the study's first author. "Instead, they should seek activities that are not disruptive that allow their students with ADHD to use movement, because it assists them with thinking."

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