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Category Archives: ADHD

Anyone who knows kids knows that they aren’t designed to sit still for extended periods of time. There’s a reason for that! Movement stimulates more blood flow to the brain and enhances attention span and learning. The parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who are physically active versus people who don’t.

However, despite all the evidence of the benefits, outside of recess, there is little physical activity during the school day. On average kids sit at a desk for close to 6 hours. No wonder they get fidgety!

“Kids aren’t meant to sit still all day and take in information,” says Steve Boyle, one of the co-founders of The National Association of Physical Literacy, which aims to bring movement into all schools. Mental breaks, coupled with physical movement, are key to performance and creativity and improved concentration. NAPL promotes incorporating breaks for physical activity beyond recess. They’ve produced a series of 3 – 5 minute videos teachers can use to lead kids through a mini-series of energizing exercises several times throughout the school day.

Schools need to think of the child as a whole person and consider their bodies as important to learning as their brains are. (That goes for us adults too!)
For more information and resources see the recent New York Times’ story, “Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class”.

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Now that the end of school is in sight, kids are starting to get fidgety. Restless kiddos are a population I know something about. Having worked with hundreds of ADHD kids over my 25 years as a clinician, I know how challenging it is for the ADHD child to sit still in school, in church, at home and mostly anywhere their parents would like.

This article raises an interesting question about whether this inability to sit still is really all detrimental in terms of their learning capacity. In fact, the studies indicate antsiness may serve a valuable purpose for the ADHD child leading to increased retention and improved academic performance. I like this quote from the article: “What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better,” Rapport said. “They have to move to maintain alertness.”

We see this phenomenon played out regularly in our Stepping Stones groups where we have incorporated movement into each session to maximize stimulation and engagement. The kinesthetic learning piece of our social skills training program for children and their parents is particularly well-suited to ADHD kids. Almost every week in group, there is some kind of activity that gets the kids up and moving around. Getting to know you sessions might include throwing a ball to a child while the others move in a circle to catch it when their name is called. Body space awareness sessions can include an imaginary hula hoop that members practice having around them while they pretend to walk on the moon, skip in the park, or even act out anger. So while we may still want to correct our kids for foot tapping, leg swinging, and chair scooting extravaganzas, we can also make subtle changes to harness this energy. Getting your child an exercise ball to sit on for homework or encouraging him/her to tap out letters to spelling words might be just what the researcher ordered.

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