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Are Schools Exacerbating ADHD?

Previously, I have discussed how important physical activity is for school children (podcast, articles and blog posts). In my opinion, physical activities are being ignored as a potential reason for decreased test scores and behavioral problems in school districts. When children are made to sit all day long, they will act out, be inattentive and their minds wander. Sedentary lessons ignore kinesthetic learners and students with bodily kinesthetic intelligence (Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences). This is for typically developing students. Now let’s consider students with ADHD and sensory seekers. It makes it even harder to pay attention and learn while having to sit still most of the day.

It appears as if this situation is only getting more dire than better. The Center on Education Policy as part of No Child Left Behind, reported in February 2008 that schools are shifting to more instructional time on English language arts (ELA) and math. This of course occurs at the expense of other subjects. The report shows that on average, schools have decreased recess time by 28% and physical education time by 35%.

Let’s now take a look at ADHD rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of ADHD have increased on average 3% per year from 1997-2006. As of 2007, 4.5 million children have been diagnosed as having ADHD. This brings us to the question is decreased physical activity time exacerbating ADHD symptoms? Some recent research helps to support the idea that sitting in school all day is detrimental to overall learning.

Neuroscience reports on a study of 20 children who did treadmill walking followed by cognitive testing. The results indicated that following 20 minutes of treadmill training, the children exhibited improved attention and academic performance. Research has also indicated a relationship between amount of time spent outdoors and improved attention in children with ADHD. To view even more research regarding this topic go to www.YourTherapySource.com/articles and click on the Bulk Up the Brain article.

So what can we do? Let’s join the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) this April. Go to the website to find the details and suggested outdoor activites for students of all ages and subject matter. Spread the word and let’s get all children moving and outdoors!

Need activity ideas for in the classroom or group activities? Check out our Sensory Motor Activity books.

C.H. Hillmana,M.B. Pontifexa, L.B. Rainea, D.M. Castellia, E.E. Hallb and A.F. Kramera The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children Neuroscience Volume 159, Issue 3, 31 March 2009, Pages 1044-1054

Center on Education Policy Instructional Time in Elementary Schools
A Closer Look at Changes for Specific Subjects
retreived from the web on 4/1/09 at http://www.cep-dc.org/_data/n_0001/resources/live/InstructionalTimeFeb2008.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ADHD Data and Statistics retrieved from the web on 4/01/09 at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

Taylor, A. Kuo, Sullivan COPING WITH ADD The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Retreived from the web on 4/1/09 at http://www.cbf.org/site/DocServer/Coping_with_ADD.pdf?docID=13323

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