Fidgeting to Improve Focus

During the academic year after school, right as they come to our offices, some of our students with ADHD that are taking medication to help manage their attention issues begin to feel their medication wearing off.  Medications often have a limited window of effectiveness that is sometimes shorter than the time during which a student may need to focus to complete his/her work.  A student may begin to lose focus and this may show up in a variety of ways.  The first impulse when observing this behavior may be to encourage a student to “focus more” or “try harder,” but in fact, a growing body of research indicates that certain types of student fidgeting, traditionally thought of as a “lack of focus,” can actually help students to sustain attention.

It seems that the body, in its wisdom, actually “knows” that by multitasking in certain ways, focus and attention can be maintained/extended in much the same way that is enabled by medications.  The trick is to allow a type of fidgeting that does not interfere with the senses required to complete the academic task at hand. Activity that engages a sense other than the one required, helps the body to release neurotransmitters that aid in boosting attention.  A mostly mindless physical activity that does not inhibit the student from calling on whatever senses are needed to accomplish his/her work can actually aid the student in sustaining focus.

This suggests that some fidgeting can be intentional and employed to help students.  It can be something like tapping a pencil while reading, or tapping a foot while writing.  It can even employ physically moving from location to location, as long as it does not interfere with simultaneously completing tasks that are part of a homework goal.

The management of medication type, dosage and timing is something that only a doctor (in close consultation with a student, parents and educators) is qualified to manage and often takes a great deal of time to “get right.”  It is useful for students to know that there are other strategies that they may utilize as adjuncts to using medication, or while figuring out the aforementioned medication-related combination that works best.

Got any ideas for proactive fidgeting?  Let’s hear em!

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Until next time.

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