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Education Law: BoardBuzz: NSBA's Daily Weblog
Adults often admonish children to sit still and stop fidgeting when it’s time to learn or focus on a task. Children with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) find such instruction particularly difficult as their disorder manifests with impulsive or restless behavior. New information indicates that there may be some causality between this attention deficit and hyperactivity. According to a University of Central Florida study, hyperactive behavior, often associated with inattentiveness, may actually help children with ADHD concentrate on tasks.
“We’ve known for years that children with ADHD are more active than their peers,” said Rapport, whose findings are published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. “What we haven’t known is why.”
“They use movement to keep themselves alert,” Rapport added. “They have a hard time sitting still unless they’re in a highly stimulating environment where they don’t need to use much working memory.” Psychologists haven’t yet come to a consensus on the role of hyperactivity. Some look at it as incidental, while others think there is a practical correlation. Some still hold the controversial view that ADHD itself doesn’t really exist.
Ars Technica provides a good summary of how the study was conducted:
Rapport and his colleagues had their study participants (12 individuals with ADHD and 11 controls, all boys between 8 and 12 years of age) wear actigraphs, devices that are sensitive to acceleration and used to measure intensity of movements. They placed an actigraph, which resembles a watch, on the wrist of the nondominant hand and both ankles. As the boys went through controlled and experimental tasks, the actigraphs sampled their movements 16 times every second.
The control activity involved having children use Microsoft Paint to draw whatever they liked, which required very little working memory. The experimental task required the children to play two memory games. In the game with numbers and letters, the researchers showed the boys a random series of numbers along with a capital letter for 800 milliseconds. They then asked the boys to recite the numbers in ascending order, followed by the letter. In the other game, they presented nine squares. In each trial, a series of black and red dots would appear on the squares?they showed every dot for 800 milliseconds. At the end of every trial, the boys had to remember the position of the dots in the order that they were shown.
Unsurprisingly, the ADHD group was more active than the control group in each activity. However, both showed the same pattern during the memory tasks where hyperactivity levels more than doubled. The researchers have thus concluded that hyperactivity is a coping mechanism. “When they are doing homework, let them fidget, stand up or chew gum,” said researcher Mark D. Rapport, a psychology professor. “Unless their behavior is destructive, severely limiting their activity could be counterproductive.”
BoardBuzz still thinks more studies are necessary to really determine the link between hyperactivity and attention-deficit. Certainly we need to look at the quality of performance during these tests. It would also be interesting to find out if girls show the same pattern. What do you think?
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