Hyperactivity helps children with ADHD to learn

When children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are supposed to learn, adults usually ask them to sit still. However, a study published in the “Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology” now suggests that physical hyperactivity is essential for the cognitive learning processes.

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (Orlando) conducted trials in 52 boys aged from eight to twelve. 29 children had ADHD, the others showed normal development. The study subjects were asked to perform standardised tests to assess their working memory. They were filmed with a high-speed camera that recorded every movement and assessed their attention to the task.

The team under the leadership of Mark Rapport found that excessive movements are not ever-present in children with ADHD, and are apparent only when they need to use the brain’s executive functions, especially their working memory. “What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better”, said Rapport. “They have to move to maintain alertness”. In children without ADHD, the opposite was the case.

This does not imply that children with ADHD should be allowed to run around the room while learning, said the researcher. But movement should be enabled to a certain extent – for example sitting on activity balls or the like – to achieve better learning results, he said.

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