Think twice before you tell a child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to sit still and concentrate. Scientists have found that foot-tapping, leg-swinging and chair-scooting movements are vital to how such children remember information and work out complex tasks.
The findings show the longtime prevailing methods for helping children with ADHD may be misguided.
"The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It is exactly the opposite of what, we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD," said Dr. Mark Rapport, one of the study's authors, from University of Central Florida. "The message isn't 'Let them run around the room,' but you need to be able to facilitate their movement, so they can maintain the level of alertness necessary for cognitive activities," Rapport explained.
The findings suggests that a majority of students with ADHD could perform better on classroom work, tests and homework if they are sitting on activity balls or exercise bikes, for instance. The study included 52 boys aged eight to 12. Twenty-nine of the children were diagnosed with ADHD and the other 23 had no clinical disorders and showed normal development.
Each child was asked to perform a series of standardized tasks designed to gauge "working memory", the system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning and comprehension.
"What we have found is that when they are moving the most, the majority of them perform better," Rapport said.
By contrast, the children in the study without ADHD also moved more during the cognitive tests, but it had the opposite effect: They performed worse.
The study appeared online in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology