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The Benefits of Movement for ADHD

Picture of Janelle Clifton

Janelle Clifton

Occupational Therapist, Patches Australia

When it comes to ADHD, movement is the key

Occupational Therapists often compare the body’s levels of alertness to car engines. Sometimes our internal engines run high, like when running, jumping, swimming and other times our engines will run low, for example, when sitting on the couch and watching tv. In order for children to perform at their best, their engines to be running ‘just right’. 

ADHD can present as difficulties primarily with attention, or with hyperactivity and impulsivity, or a combination of these. 

Tips for children with attention difficulties:

Children with attention difficulties often have engines that run in low gear. They can look slumped, lethargic and often miss important information in the environment around them, such as instructions. There are ways to assist them to get their engines running just right, including: 

• Offering frequent movement breaks.

• Alternative seating options (ask our OT team for assistance with this).

• Providing opportunities to adjust their working position e.g., allowing the child to stand or lay down on their stomachs to write.

Tips for children with hyperactivity and impulsivity difficulties:

Children with hyperactivity and impulsivity difficulties have engines running in high gear a lot of the time. This is evident by their high frequency of movement, which can become a problem as they can often go into overload. Children with ADHD are bombarded by lots of information in their environment which makes it difficult for them to focus on the important things. Tips for children displaying these signs include: 

• Providing movement opportunities before short bursts of focused work time.

• In a school setting – providing a chair so their bodies are well supported, i.e.  theiry feet touching the ground, and bottoms back in the chair.

• Intensive physical activities e.g., pushing, pulling and climbing. The more intense, the better – think better, think faster, stronger, higher!

Tips for children with both types of difficulties:

• Use their interests as much as possible in order to engage and motivate them.

• Give instructions one at a time. Work up to two at a time if able.

• Make sure they are getting plenty of intense physical activity every day, but not too close to bedtime. 

• Limit screen time. Before you know it, they’ve spent too much time being inactive and have not got enough physical activity to meet their internal engine’s needs. 

Remember that many of these children have the ability tocan generate lots of ideas and so are great team players. They also have the ability to hyperfocus when an activity or topic grabs them and can therefore become ‘experts’ in an interest area. All children are unique, and this includes kids with ADHD. You will need some trial and error to find what movement benefits them most. 

For further guidance, Patches provides Occupational Therapy for children across Australia. 

To get in touch please email us via: enquiries@patches.com.au  

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