Squirming May Be Helping Kids with ADHD to Learn

Rob Wipond
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Normal efforts to get children with ADHD to “sit still and focus” may be counterproductive, according to a study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. A team of Florida researchers found that children with ADHD actually have better working memory when they are “squirming” in their seats.

The study compared 29 boys ages 8 to 12 who’d been diagnosed with ADHD and 23 showing “typical development.” They were tested with standardized tasks involving ordering jumbled letters and numbers. The tests were designed to gauge “working memory,” which a press release about the study described as “the system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning and comprehension.”

The researchers found that higher rates of activity — such as foot-tapping, leg-swinging and chair-scooting — predicted significantly better performances for the children with ADHD, even though such activities were associated with poorer performances for the more typical children. The researchers also noted that, “Variations in movement did not predict changes in attention for either group.”

At the same time, the researchers noted that external observers tended to identify the children with ADHD as “Improved” when they were less active, and “Deteriorated” when more active, even though the opposite was usually the case.

“The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It’s exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD,” said a co-author of the study in the press release. The author suggested that there was a need to “facilitate their movement” by perhaps letting children with ADHD sit on activity balls or exercise bikes when doing schoolwork. “What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better,” he said. “They have to move to maintain alertness.”

Sarver, Dustin E., Mark D. Rapport, Michael J. Kofler, Joseph S. Raiker, and Lauren M. Friedman. “Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior?” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, April 12, 2015, 1–14. doi:10.1007/s10802-015-0011-1. (Abstract)

Kids with ADHD must squirm to learn, study says (University of Central Florida press release on MedicalXpress, April 17, 2015)

8 COMMENTS

  1. Letting the children sit on activity balls in school, that’s a cool idea. They’ll be getting some exercise as they learn, which would likely be good for children within this too obese country. And I bet the kids would enjoy that.

    It sure does seem psychiatry does absolutely everything wrong. Perhaps rather than claiming common sense is “millions of voices,” the psychiatric industry should try to garner some common sense instead?

  2. So… let me get this straight. The “Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology” claims that there is such a thing as ADHD, and that it is something that some kids “have.” Then they claim that squirming helps these less “typical” kids. Not only this, but the researchers suddenly became aware that physically active and playful children are more alert.

    You have got to be kidding me. This is the kind of stuff that gets funded with millions of our hard earned tax dollars?

    Good grief. Somebody just stick a knife in me.

  3. I am still amazed that drugging little children with amphetamines is not in the trash bin of history yet.

    Like always I suggest parents adjust for body weight and take a few doses of the childs drugs themselves so they are not CLUELESS to how they “work”.

    Child drugging: Creating a whole generation of drug addicts and mental patients. And they know it.

  4. I’m currently reading, “Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills That Kill” by Kelly Patricia O’meara ($3.99 Kindle edition via Amazon). In her chapter on “Kiddie Cocaine” she refers to “Wiggling” as one of the many dubious symptoms of so-called ADHD.