By Chris Weller
Hyperactivity in kids with ADHD may not be what hurts their ability to learn, but rather what helps them cope. A new study from the University of Central Florida has found that when kids are free to fidget and squirm, they see a marked increase in the memory skills necessary for learning.
The research validates what occupational therapists have been doing for some time, namely, allowing kids with ADHD to express their hyperactivity, rather than suppress it, with small toys that can keep them busy. Typically, these toys offer a stimulating tactile experience, such as the squish of Silly Putty or the pointiness of spiky balls. The function of the toys is to let the kids’ brains idly enjoy the sensation while their executive functions focus on the task at hand.
Dr. Mark Rapport, study co-author and head of the Children's Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida, says these toys already do a sufficient job. “Many children manage without medication if they are allowed to use non-disruptive mechanisms that facilitate movement,” he told Medical Daily. Unfortunately, acknowledging the needs of kids with ADHD isn’t the standard. Some 11 percent of children between 4 and 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, and prevalence is rising year over year. For many of these kids, the sentiment they hear most often is to sit still and be quiet.
kids with ADHD performed significantly better on the task when they were free to engage in extraneous activities: tapping their feet, moving their hands, playing with the objects around them.
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.
Telling them to sit still, in other words, would only make things worse.
What's the buzz?
"Since incorporating the Vidget in our classroom, I have noticed an improvement in attention span, participation, and regulation in my students"
Tara, Occupational Therapist
"The little girl I used it with sat down and ate lunch which she usually does not do - she tends to stand or sit and wiggle in her seat."
Melanie, Director of Occupational Therapy
"When Pearl is in a Vidget, her behavior is 100 times better than when she’d in a normal chair. She’s still has difficulty sitting for that long, but it makes a HUGE difference! Without it, she’s everywhere."
Lara, Pre-K Teacher