ScienceDaily, a great source for the latest research news, posted an article titled, “Squirm with purpose: Fidgeting is helpful for ADHD patients, study shows”. The study they refer to is by Florida State University, February 22, 2016. In a nutshell the new research confirms the following: Children often fidget or move when they are trying to solve a problem, and that movement may have a positive effect on children with ADHD.
The research talks about “working memory”. What does “working memory” mean?
LearningWorks for Kids web site says, “Working Memory is the thinking skill that focuses on memory-in-action: the ability to remember and use relevant information while in the middle of an activity. For example, a child is using their Working Memory as they recall the steps of a recipe while cooking a favorite meal.
Children who have trouble with their Working Memory skills will often have difficulty remembering their teachers’ instructions, recalling the rules to a game, or completing other tasks that involve actively calling up important information.
Teachers have long struggled to get children to sit still at their desks. But for children with ADHD, those orders might be counterproductive.
That’s the research focus of Florida State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael Kofler, who is developing new, non-medication treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). New research by Kofler at FSU’s Children’s Learning Clinic shows that children often fidget or move when they are trying to solve a problem, and that movement may have a positive effect on children with ADHD.
“We really wanted to drill down and find what was causing the hyperactivity,” Kofler said.
The results will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders, but is currently available online.
Children with ADHD are able to retain information, which they use daily. But they often have difficulty with what’s called working memory, meaning the updating or mentally rearranging of information in the mind. Previous work by Kofler and his colleagues at University of Mississippi Medical Center showed that kids with ADHD did better on working memory tests when they moved more — suggesting that these kids may benefit cognitively from behaviors like squirming or fidgeting.
But they did not know whether the “hyperactive” movement helped working memory specifically.
Kofler and his colleagues wanted to find out.
Working with 25 boys and girls with ADHD, ages 8 to 12, Kofler devised two types of tests.
#1 The first test required students to remember where a series of dots appeared on a screen and mentally reordering them based on color.
#2 The second test involved remembering a series of numbers and letters, and mentally reordering them, numbers first from smallest to biggest, then the letter.
There were between three and six items to remember and reorder throughout the tests.
The students were given each test multiple times and the predictability of difficulty differed with each test. In the less difficult version, they were told how many items they had to remember, and took the test in order; in the difficult version, the amount of information to remember in working memory was random.
Study shows cause-and-effect relationship between
working memory demands and hyperactivity in ADHD
Children with ADHD fidgeted and moved during all the tests, which was expected because all the tests were mentally challenging. But they moved up to 25 percent more when they couldn’t predict how many items they had to remember. Because the tests were identical in every way except for that key difference, this is the first study that shows a cause-and-effect relationship between working memory demands and hyperactivity in ADHD.
“It’s another piece of evidence that the hyperactive behavior more and more seems to be purposeful for them,” he said. “This movement is how they get the juices flowing.”
Kofler also said the study is directly informing the new ADHD treatment they’re developing.
“Our work keeps pointing to working memory,” he said. “It affects their attention, their impulse control, their school success, their social interactions and now their hyperactivity. So we’re going to try and improve working memory. This is a challenge, but if we’re successful, we should see better attention and impulse control, and they shouldn’t have to move as much.”
- M. J. Kofler, D. E. Sarver, E. L. Wells. Working Memory and Increased Activity Level (Hyperactivity) in ADHD: Experimental Evidence for a Functional Relation. Journal of Attention Disorders, 2015; DOI:10.1177/1087054715608439
Florida State University. “Squirm with purpose: Fidgeting is helpful for ADHD patients, study shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160222111106.htm>.
Fidgets for ADHD – Busy the hands to calm the mind.
Using hand fidgets or chewing and biting on sensory oral-motor tools like KidCompanions Chewelry or SentioCHEWS are forms of movement.
Fidgets have particular properties that intrigue sensory systems. The premise is that children with special needs, with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s syndrome, autism (ASD), anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), reduce their excessive movements (fidgeting) and increase their focus through the handling of mouth and/or hand fidgets. Busy the hands to calm the mind.