ADHD, Fidgeting and Fitness

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children movingIs ADHD over diagnosed? If you listen to parents, you may notice a recurring complaint of children younger and younger who “can’t pay attention.” When a mother laments a six-year-old who can’t sit still, one wonders: what six-year-old wants to sit still anyway?

The Centers for Disease Control has tracked diagnoses of ADHD from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 11% in 2011. Have children changed or have expectations of children changed? The answer is, “Both!”

Children are expected to pay attention for longer periods of time. In some schools, kindergarten students are expected to sit attentively during circle time for 30 minutes at a time.

What happens when a child’s sitting times lengthen, and recesses shorten? Go into any class toward the end of the day. Kids are tapping, wiggling, chewing on things, leaning back on their chairs. They are moving as best they can while they are supposed to be sitting still. The kids know what they need, but we’re not letting them.

Children spend more and more time in upright seated positions – in classrooms, in computer labs and at home in front of tablet, laptop and television screens. Organized sports a couple times per week can’t make up for a daily routine lacking physical activity.

When’s the last time you saw kids in your neighborhood initiating a pick-up game of kick ball? Or have you seen them just tumbling down a grassy hill, spinning, jumping…or wandering over forests and fields?

Problems abound — the forests and fields aren’t as accessible as they used to be. And legitimate safety concerns lead parents to closely supervise their children’s play. The days of children wandering a bit and playing until dark or until they hear a familiar call don’t happen too much today.

One of the consequences of so much sitting time is lower fitness levels. When several students in 5th grade classes were assessed in fitness skills, it was discovered that most of them had poor core strength and balance. Compared to students similarly assessed in the early 80’s, only one out of twelve children today exhibited normal strength and balance.

Restricted movement for so many children has led to balance systems that never developed as they should. To develop strong balance and sensory systems, children need to move in all directions – a lot!

When they’re sent to class and asked to sit still and pay attention, they’re asked to do something their bodies aren’t prepared to do. To compensate and try to wake up and pay attention, they fidget.

Then the teacher says “Be still, already!” So they do, and they zone out again, maybe not to return for the rest of class.

Fidgeting isn’t the real problem – a lack of activity is.

So greet your kids when they come home from school – and send them outside to play. Talk to your school authorities about extending recess. These kids need to move again, and as a parent, you’re their best advocate to jumpstart a little fun activity..

Source: Center for Disease Control

About Kayla

Kayla Fay is a freelance writer and the mother of four boys, three of whom have been formally diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD. When she started “Who Put the Ketchup in the Medicine Cabinet?” in 2002, her sons were ages 8 through 14, when her life was a “progression of dirty laundry, lost homework, misunderstood Algebra, and a whole lot of love and fun”.

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