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Don't Just Sit There: Fidgeting improves focus for kids with ADHD

It’s no secret that kids with the hyperactive component of ADHD seem like they are in constant motion. While it may drive parents and teachers crazy, fidgeting is actually a good thing. In fact, studies show that test scores are higher if students fidget while taking the test. Kids with ADHD actually NEED to move to maintain focus and attention. Why is this? Research indicates that physical activity increases dopamine and norepinephrine in a similar way medication does. Something as simple as chewing gum has been shown to improve critical thinking and working memory.

Fidgeting is not squirming in your seat but rather more intentional. The “fidget” needs to be a mindless activity that uses a different sense other than that required for the primary activity and must be appropriate to the situation and respectful to others nearby.

I recommend sitting on an exercise ball while studying or doing homework. This requires constant, small movement to maintain balance which uses up excess energy that would otherwise go into disruptive and distracting movement. Some schools are implementing this strategy into their classrooms. Doodling, walking around or pacing are effective ways to move to create focus. Sensory toys, such as the rubber spiky toys pictured or pencil toppers that resemble erasers are a good option for fidget objects in addition to rubber bracelets or stress balls.

Adults tend to think that if kids are moving during homework or class time, they cannot possibly be paying attention. But actually the opposite is true for kids with ADHD. Instead of telling kids to sit still, provide them with quiet, unobtrusive objects and see if it makes a positive difference.

Please share what fidget objects or activities you have found helpful in the comment box below.

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