Is High Working ADHD Real

Hyperactive children in class and in learning therapy

Why children with ADHD fidget when learning, why it is good and how learning moves.

Do you have a hyperactive child or even several in your class or in learning therapy? Do you give tuition to ADHD children or are you involved in the home study of your own fidget child? Then you have probably asked yourself many times how these children can be made to sit still, because constant bobbing with the legs, jerking the chair, drumming with the fingers or even jumping up and running around makes good learning outcomes impossible, so the popular opinion. Current studies refute this assumption and give nervous teachers, learning therapists and parents not only new hope, but also educationally valuable ideas. Read in our new blog post why children have a A.attention-D.eficitHyperactivityS.fidgeting when learning, why this is a good sign and how learning moves.

Fidgeting makes sense with ADHD

"Sit still and concentrate!" Hyperactive children hear this request more than once a day: during the day at school and in the afternoon with homework or in learning therapy. However, Professor Mark D. Rapport of the University of Central Florida found that reducing hyperactivity should not be our educational goal because motor restlessness in learning situations has a purpose in children with ADHD: it seems to help them maintain their alertness . If you allow them to fidget, the performance of these children will be better. Professor Rapport and his team examined 52 boys aged eight to twelve, 29 of whom were diagnosed with ADHD, the others without. The children were asked to solve tasks that require working memory on a computer screen. It was found that more fidgeting led to better work results in the majority of the ADHD children examined. The opposite was true for children without ADHD: if they moved more, they did worse in the cognitive tests.

On closer observation of children with ADHD, it becomes clear that the fidgeting is particularly strong when these children use the executive functions of their brain, e.g. when it comes to conscious attention control, setting goals and strategic action planning. The executive functions include working memory, which in turn is responsible for recording, processing and storing as well as retrieving current information and stimuli. A well-functioning working memory is an essential prerequisite for successful learning. Schoolchildren with ADHD seem to use hyperactivity to put their brains into an alert and thus capable of learning state. In short, children with ADHD have to fidget to learn.

Sports scientists Susanne Ziereis and Prof. Dr. Petra Jansen from the University of Regensburg, in cooperation with a practice for child and adolescent psychiatry, were able to demonstrate in a study that exercise improves the attention and memory performance of children with ADHD. 43 children diagnosed with ADHD between the ages of 7 and 12 (32 boys and 11 girls) took part in the study. The children were divided into three groups: one group went through a motor training program over 12 weeks, the second group went through another 12-week exercise program, and the third group was the control group without exercise. Those children who were assigned to the first or second group showed significant increases in performance in the area of ​​cognitive functions. In contrast, no improvements were found in the control group. It is also interesting that the type of sporting activity does not seem to be decisive: the children in one sport group did different exercises than the children in the other sport group and yet there were no significant differences in the increases in performance.

Learning on the move

How can educators and parents use this scientific knowledge? They should also enable children with ADHD to exercise in learning situations. This is easy at home and in learning therapy, because there are no classmates here who could feel disturbed by the fidgeting and the associated noises. But what can teachers do who have to keep an eye on the well-being of the whole class, and which of them is also suitable for learning therapy and the home?

Sitting ball or seat cushion

Sitting balls have proven themselves in ADHD at home, at school, and in learning therapy. Many hyperactive children use it to channel their urge to move. Alternatively, you can try a seat cushion. Depending on the provider, these include air, gel, balls or cherry stones. You can also take small pillowcases and fill them according to your own ideas. The hyperactive child can barely move visibly and almost silently by shifting their weight. But be careful: some ADHD children find balancing and balancing so difficult that they are even more unable to concentrate on the subject matter with seat cushions. The only thing that helps here is trying out.

Chewing gum, kneading ball and rocking chair

Enable a hyperactive child or adolescent to have trouble-free forms of motor activity: chewing gum relieves tension and promotes the ability to concentrate. A kneading ball can help reduce excess energy. Various suppliers also offer slightly rocking chairs and stools with a rocking effect. They can be used at home, in learning therapy, and also at school.

Two chairs in the classroom

A teacher who has a hyperactive child in class cannot let him wander around aimlessly in the room. The other children would quickly feel disturbed or imitate this behavior. If, on the other hand, the hyperactive child has two seats, e.g. one at the very front and one further back, they could change seats as required. It would have a fixed goal, would not have to explain itself every time, and soon the other children would not even look up when their classmate walks past them on the way to his second chair.

Running dictation

Running dictation is a proven method of learning on the move. The child runs to a text and memorizes it. Then it runs back to its table and writes down the word or phrase from memory. A similar approach can be used in mathematics: the child solves one or more arithmetic problems in their own place and then goes to another place in the classroom to check their results. This can be, for example, a table with a computing frame on it.

Table or messenger services

As a teacher, you could entrust a hyperactive child with services that require exercise. This can be, for example, fetching chalk or whiteboard pens or handing out exercise books or worksheets. This is how the child uses his hyperactivity in a productive way. It is allowed to move and at the same time do something useful for the community.

Integrate exercise breaks into the classroom

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and therefore benefits all learners, not just those with ADHD. You should therefore integrate short, clearly instructed exercise units into your teaching or learning therapy. Have the children stand up, stretch, and imaginarily pick apples above their heads. Exercises from educational kinesiology such as the reclining figure eight, the gravity glider and cross movements in all variants are also suitable.

“Do more of it” instead of admonitions

It helps a lot when parents, teachers and learning therapists know that the motor restlessness of people with ADHD is not bad behavior, but belongs to people with ADHD like the head and the arm. Forced sitting still for a long period of time costs hyperactive people a lot of energy, which then cannot be used for learning processes. Successful learning is also possible with ADHD when it is combined with exercise. Instead of "sit still!" the message to the child must be: “Do more of what is good for you!”. The overactive child must feel understood and accepted and they need caregivers who work with them to explore how they can live their hyperactivity in learning situations without disturbing their environment. Ask the child what helps them, show genuine interest, and you will be surprised by the helpful answers.

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Dustin E. Sarver, Mark D. Rapport, Michael J. Kofler, Joseph S. Raiker, Lauren M. Friedman: Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior? In: Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 2015.

Susanne Ziereis, Petra Jansen: Effects of physical activity on executive function and motor performance in children with ADHD. In: Research in Developmental Disabilities, 2014.