Allowing Children With ADHD to Fidget May Help Them Focus on Tasks

Allowing children with ADHD to fidget may help them focus better and ignore distractions.
Allowing children with ADHD to fidget may help them focus better and ignore distractions.

HealthDay News — Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often fidget, but new research suggests intense fidgeting may actually help them focus on the task at hand. The study was published online in Child Neuropsychology.

Julie Schweitzer, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the MIND Institute of the University of California, Davis, and colleagues compared 26 children with ADHD and 18 without the disorder. The children in the study ranged in age from 10 to 17, and were 14 on average. Fifteen of the children with ADHD took stimulant medication, but stopped it for 24 hours before the testing.

The children all performed the same test, which required them to focus and to dismiss distractions. The children were asked to determine the direction of the middle arrow in a series of arrows. They needed to ignore the arrows surrounding the middle one.

The researchers found that when the children with ADHD were moving or fidgeting more intensely, they performed better on the test. Meanwhile, the movements of the children without ADHD did not affect test performance. The intensity of movement, but not its frequency, was linked with more correct answers in the children with ADHD.

"What I suspect is that kids with ADHD are moving to increase their attention by activating their arousal system," Schweitzer told HealthDay. "Being aroused does increase attention."

Reference

Schweitzer JB, et al. A trial-by-trial analysis reveals more intense physical activity is associated with better cognitive control performance in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Child Neuropsychol. 2015; doi: 10.1080/09297049.2015.1044511.

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