In the last decade the diagnosis of ADHD grew among children by 53%. Twenty percent of high school aged boys carry the diagnosis as do eleven percent of children and teens. Much of what our society does about the problem centers around the prescription of amphetamine derivative medication. The goal of the medication is to focus their attention and reduce their hyperactivity. And, it appears that the goal may be wrong.
New research published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, conducted at the University of Central Florida indicates that current thinking about hyperactive children may be wrong. Instead of making it difficult or impossible for them to learn, movement maybe an important key to their learning.[i] “The foot-tapping, leg swinging, and chair-scooting…are actually vital to how they remember information and work out complex tasks.”[ii] It appears that if they aren’t moving, they may not be learning!
“The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It’s exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.”[iii] Instead the researchers said that educators should be facilitating the child’s movement. The study included 52 boys ages 8 to 12. Out of that group 29 boys had the label of ADHD, and 23 did not.
The boys were video recorded and their movements were recorded by observers as they performed a math problem. What they found was very important to the children and learning. The boys who were labeled with ADHD were not hyperactive continuously. Instead they developed the excessive movement when they were performing the math problem. When they were using the part of our brains that allows us to make memories, they were moving. Instead of being a problem, the movement was needed in order to do the task.
Boys without ADHD, did not increase their movement when they were asked to do the math problem. And, if they did increase their movement their performance of the problem worsened. The study showed that in order to help children who meet the behavior criteria for ADHD, we need to rearrange the learning environment. These students may perform better if they do their work sitting on exercise balls or exercise bicycles instead of traditional chairs and desks.
This is great research! Someone has finally stood up and said what I have been saying about ADHD for a decade. These children certainly are different. They learn differently. Instead of trying to force them into a one size fits all form of education by medicating them, we should be changing the classroom. We need to educate children in the best way they can learn.
Reminds me of something the writer of Proverbs said. “Raise up a child in the way that he should go…” That may not always be the way every child goes or the way that the majority of those in medicine and education think best.
[i] Dustin E. Sarver, Mark D. Rapport, Michael J. Kofler, Joseph S. Raiker, Lauren M. Friedman. Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior?Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s10802-015-0011-1
[ii] University of Central Florida. "Kids with ADHD must squirm to learn, study says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150417190003.htm>.