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.
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