Updated 15 June 2015

Fidgeting may help children with ADHD learn

Moving around or fidgeting may play a crucial role in helping children with ADHD to remember more information and assist their learning.


Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) need to squirm to learn, a small study suggests.

Constantly shifting in their desks, tapping their feet, swinging their legs and other fidgety behaviours play a crucial role in helping these children remember information and solve complex mental tasks, the researchers found.

The study included 29 boys aged 8 to 12 with ADHD who underwent tests of learning, comprehension and reasoning. They were compared to a control group of 23 boys without ADHD.

The more the boys with ADHD moved during the tests, the better they did. The more the boys in the control group moved during the tests, the worse they did, according to the study published online recently in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Read: Need for earlier recognition and treatment of ADHD

Children with ADHD "have to move to maintain alertness," study co-author Mark Rapport, head of the Children's Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, said in a university news release.

The findings suggest that current methods used by parents and teachers to deal with children with ADHD may be missing the mark.

"The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It's exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD," Rapport said.

"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," he explained.

For example, many students with ADHD might get better marks if they could do classroom work, tests and homework while sitting on activity balls or exercise bikes, Rapport suggested.

Read more:

Does ADHD really affect 7% of children worldwide?

A better night's sleep may help children with ADHD

Kids with ADHD may gain more from family-centred care

Image: Elementary school students in classroom with teacher from Shutterstock

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Dr. Shabeer Ahmed Jeeva is a specialist psychiatrist who has been practicing child and adult psychiatry for 30 years. He has vast experience in treating ADHD, and is also an ADHD patient himself. Dr. Jeeva trained and practiced in Canada as a child and adult psychiatrist and had lived there for 25 years. He had attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland (1970-1976). His professional experience and accreditation includes: Psychiatric residency at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Child Psychiatry fellowship at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Diploma in Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa (Canada), and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Canada. Visit his website at:

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