Fidgets Help People with ADD to Focus
Children, especially those with Attention Deficit Disorder, are often told not to fidget. Fidgeting is that movement which seems without purpose to the person who is watching it. Much of the time the movements are small ones of the feet or hands. Some people who fidget get more of their body involved. Parents and teachers regularly try to limit the movement of kids with ADD/ADHD when they are in a classroom or other formal setting. But what if fidgeting has a purpose for kids with Attention Deficit Disorder?
A small study released by the University of Central Florida in 2009 found that students with Attention Deficit Disorder were better able to think through and complete complex academic tasks when they were able to move. Movement allowed the students to focus their attention. Based on this study, Dr. John Rapport believes that students with ADD/ADHD use movement to keep themselves alert.
What happens when students try to fidget in class? An adult usually tells them to quit playing around. Fidgeting is seen as a child distracting himself from work. Even worse, he is perceived to be distracting those around him.
Dr. Rapport’s study seems to contradict the idea that fidgeting pulls a child with Attention Deficit Disorder’s attention from the task at hand to the fidget. If fidgeting to focus is useful to the child with ADD/ADHD, then how can it become a part of a classroom routine?
First, education needs to occur. Adults and other students need to know that the fidget is essential to the student’s learning process. Fidgeting might need to be written into an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for students in Special Education. The fidget would be an accommodation. For students with Attention Deficit Disorder, the ability to fidget could be as important as having an orderly classroom to learn in. Education in the classroom can also limit the distraction that can occur with other students. Having an unobtrusive fidget can help, too.
When the fidget interferes with the learning environment, it is unacceptable. Students need to be taught how to fidget without bothering others. If tapping is the fidget of choice, it can be done on the student’s knee or leg. This is much quieter than tapping with a pencil on a desk. Small drawings or doodles are much better than a full page of doodles. Rolling a pencil, pen, or marker between the fingers is an easy movement. Raising and lowering the heels without pounding on the floor allows the legs and feet to move. Stress balls or stretchy bands can help maintain movement quietly. A good classroom fidget is not a toy that attracts the attention of others.
Fidgeting is not just for kids. Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder who are in situations that limit movement can benefit from fidgets, too! Just don’t bring a tiny finger skateboard to a meeting! Find acceptable ways to move. Taking a sip of water allows you to raise and lower your arm. Crossing and uncrossing your legs can bring movement to your legs. Taking notes looks industrious, and your notes can help your remember facts from your meetings.
Years ago, women did a variety of needlework when they were sitting down. Their hands were busy. Men used their hands to whittle. They fixed household and farm equipment. People felt that “busy hands are happy hands.” Your busy hands can help bring focus to your life. Develop a repertoire of fidgets that are acceptable in your life’s situation.
Resource: University of Central Florida (2009, March 11). Hyperactivity Enables Children With ADHD To Stay Alert: Teachers Urged Not To Severely Limit That Activity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 3, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬/releases/2009/03/090309105038.htm
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