by Nikki Schwartz
Photo Credit (Bottom Right, Clockwise): Kids Giving Your Problems? Hire an Elephant by peasap, Blowing Bubbles by Nicki Varkevisser, Tapping a Pencil by Rennett Stowe, Running by Ian Carroll. All photos used with permission via Flickr, with Creative Commons Licenses.
Why do they fidget?
Kids with ADHD typically have lower than normal activity in one or both of their frontal lobes (behind their foreheads), this is where planning, goal directed behavior, decision making, and focusing all take place.
This is one reason why people with ADHD often complain about having trouble waking up in the morning. That frontal lobe needs a kick start to wake up in the morning or to stay active during boring tasks. So, they fidget. Fidgeting activates the frontal lobes.
Sitting still during a boring task can be literally painful for a person with ADHD.
Watch a person with ADHD doing something they find fascinating and interesting. You know what you won't see? Fidgeting. Their is no need to stimulate the frontal lobes, those lobes are already engaged.
But, their fidgeting drives me crazy!
Parents and teachers have two common complaints about fidgeting:
In the book, Fidget to Focus, the authors suggesting asking these questions instead:
In another post in our series, I discussed in depth a variety of different types of "fidget strategies" for ADHD and Autism, along these lines.
So, should ADHD kids be made to sit still?
I would say probably not; however, that doesn't mean just letting them bounce off the walls. I encourage parents to find strategies that fit these two categories. It definitely requires more creativity, but there are so many ways available now to help kids learn and focus better, without requiring them to sit still during boring tasks. Here are three of my favorite products. (Note: I am not affiliated with any of these companies, nor have I received any sort of compensation whatsoever for mentioning these products. I just think they are really cool!)
The Safco AlphaBetter® Desk is standing desk with a swinging foot bar. This combines several great ideas. First, standing helps many people focus better on their work. The foot bar incorporates a movement strategy, that is much less annoying that foot tapping. Third, there is a chair as well so kids can sit and stand alternatively. It's not cheap ($300-450), compared to regular school desks ($100-150), but I think many parents and teachers can see the advantages of a standing desk like this one.
The Time Tracker from Learning Resources is a visual timer that helps kids see how much time is left. The visual aspect can help them remain on task better, and fidget less, especially if they know that the end of a boring task is coming soon. I've seen this priced around $35 usually. Learning Resources also makes a Time Tracker "mini" version that is only $14.
The Sunrise System Alarm Clock is probably one of the best things I've ever bought myself. This clock hooks up to a bedside lamp and mimics the sunrise in the morning over 45 minutes or so, and comes with a back up buzzer alarm as well. Adding more light in the morning, gradually, will help the ADHDer who struggles to wake up in the morning. It's a little pricey ($99), but provides much more light via a lamp than other sunrise clocks that have a built in light.
So, will it be the elephant or a fidget strategy?
I'll be honest... I don't highly recommend the elephant. Seems expensive and time consuming ;) I'm hoping more of you will look at fidget strategies and other ideas that complement ADHD. What has worked well for your kids or for yourself? Your comments make my day! I always welcome and respond to your thoughts and comments.