Guest Post: Fidgeting Helps Kids Stay Focused

Ever tried to do two or more things at once? Like doing homework and listening to music? Or listening to a presentation and doodling while you take notes?

Those “mindless” tasks like doodling and listening to the music are types of fidgeting.

“Everyone thinks of fidgeting as those restless movements we do when we’re bored, but really it’s more than that,” Sara Wright explains, author of Fidget to Focus: Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADD. “One of the things we know about an ADHD brain is that when it gets bored, it gets sluggish. Literally. People with ADHD just require a higher base level of stimulation to stay comfortably alert and focused.

“ In brain scans of people with ADHD doing boring repetitive tasks, we can see that pretty quickly the pre-frontal cortex slows down. One of the reasons stimulant medications are thought to work for ADHD is that they correct for this when compared to the general population.”

A bored ADHD brain is a sluggish brain.

Fidgeting helps you stay focused

In Fidget to Focus the authors propose that certain mindless tasks — like listening to music, doodling, chewing gum or standing up at your desk — are really ways to help self-regulate and stay focused.

All adults self-regulate with sensory-motor activities. When we get tired of sitting at our desks, we get up for a cup of coffee. We switch on the radio in the car to keep us interested while driving. We maybe splash some cold water on our faces to perk up. Even as adults we need the right balance of sensory-motor stimulation to keep us in our comfort zone.

“Kids need more stimulation,” says Wright. “Kids need more frequent, more intense, and more variety of sensory-motor stimulation to stay in their comfort zone. If you try to take those stimulating things away, they’ll just find something else. And this is true for all kids, not just those with ADHD. Because of the way the ADHD brain works, people with ADHD will essentially always need more stimulation than those without ADHD. It’s just a matter of degree.”

Start using these 3 tips for self-regulating with fidgeting:

1. Remember, fidgeting is that it’s perfectly natural. Everyone does it. The trick is to do it intentionally. If you do it right, you can manage your ADHD symptoms in a way that’s totally unnoticeable to everyone else.

2. Fidget respectfully: Be aware of people around you and find a way to fidget that doesn’t bother them. For example, clicking your pen repeatedly during a meeting might not be so cool, but fiddling with a paperclip under the table would be soundless and invisible.

3. Don’t pick something that competes with the primary tasks. For instance, if you need your eyes for reading, listening to music will be a better fidget than watching the TV. If you need to listen, doodling or pacing will be a better fidget than being plugged into your iPod.

This article was reprinted with permission of the Edge Foundation. The Edge Foundation trains and provides coaches for high school and college students with ADHD. Finding your perfect fidget is just one of the ways an Edge ADHD coach can help you or your child.


{image courtesy of http://mirthinablog.com}

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom.
A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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About the author

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom. A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom's view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

2 Comments

  1. Sara Capalbo says:

    I am an adult with ADHD, I was not diagnosed until college.  I used to fight BITTERLY with my mother, because I COULD NOT do my homework without some sort of distraction.  She wanted me to sit at the kitchen table, with silence, and get the work done.  I wasn’t capable of doing that…I finally convinced her to let me do it on a tv tray with the television on.  The amount, and quality, of the work increased immensely.  (That doesn’t mean it got TURNED IN, unfortunately….there was a homework eating monster that lived in the bottom of my locker)  

    My experience has made me MUCH more open to what my daughter with ADHD needs to get her work done.  (also, the availability of earlier diagnosis and medication has also helped immensely)

    It was nice to read that it’s “normal” of me to need distraction from my distraction.

    Reply
  2. Wow I have just had an aha moment reading this article – there is something like good constructive fidgeting! The examples all make sense and all of us with ADHD know how we use music or standing in meetings to keep us focused but until now I always thought of these as perhaps a coping mechanism maybe something a little bit negative. Just realised that they are positive constructive interventions! 

    Thank you for a great article.

    Reply

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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