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Fidgeting Improves Attention in ADHD Youth

🕑 2 minutes read
Posted June 16, 2015

Fidgeting Improves Attention in ADHD YouthWhen a child fidgets in class, the teacher might assume that he or she is not paying attention. However, for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the opposite may be true. A study from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) MIND Institute finds that fidgeting might improve cognitive performance for young people with ADHD. The findings indicate that allowing students with ADHD to fidget during school may help them focus on academic tasks.

The researchers evaluated 26 children with validated ADHD diagnoses and 18 typically developing children who served as controls. The participants, aged 10 to 17, wore an activity-tracking device on their ankles as they completed a cognitively demanding task. The task, called a “flanker test” measured the participant’s ability to focus and screen out distractions. In the flanker test, the participants were asked to focus on a series of arrows and identify which direction an arrow in the center is pointing.

When the participants with ADHD moved more during the flanker test, their test results were more accurate than when they were not moving. In short, correct answers were associated with more motion than incorrect answers.

The results indicate that movement can help people with ADHD pay attention and process complex cognitive issues. This principle could be incorporated in the classroom by allowing students with ADHD to fidget in ways that are not disruptive.

“Parents and teachers shouldn’t try to keep [children with ADHD] still. Let them move while they are doing their work or other challenging cognitive tasks. 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,” stated senior study author Julie Schweitzer, professor of psychiatry and director of the UC Davis ADHD Program.

This research is published in the journal Child Neuropsychology.

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