Why children won’t sit still

Not every over-active child has ADHD.  A five-year-old finds it difficult to sit still for long in class.  Next door, a six-year-old has difficulty staying focused.  Parents of both the children have made their diagnoses : ADHD.  Their teachers seem to agree.  But, according to child counsellors, the two children are being, well, children.
childrenSymptoms of hyperactivity are usually apparent in most young pre-schoolers and are nearly always present before the age of seven.  Doctor Richard House says, “Modern educational thinking is making fundamental errors in children’s early development, which then generates behavioural disturbances ——— these get misdiagnosed as “medical problems” for which the child is assumed to require medical treatment.”
 In a recent blog, Angela Hanscom, a paediatric occupational therapist from New Hampshire, said there’s only one reason why more children have attention issues these das.  They are not getting enough movement.  “Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely plat outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues and the hectic schedules of modern-day society.  Children are not moving nearly enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.  Obsessive hours of doodling behind a computer screen and fiddling on iPads and cell phones is making matters worse.”
Anthony Pellegrini, emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, questions if we are depriving our children of normal forms of social play.  And if yes, is the incidence of ADHD, aggression and delinquency symptomatic of a society that has forgotten how to play.
Across the world, too many schools are clamping down on breaks, while choosing to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.  A 2010 study found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9 and 10-year-old children.  How does exercise children photographybenefit a child’s brain ?  The brain produces a protein called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotropic factor, when the body is moving.  This protein helps build nerve-cell connections and the stronger the connections, the easier it is for children to retain information.  So, active children tend to experience better cognitive performance and focus, have more rapid reaction time and are likely to perform better at school.  They learn to be more social, gain friendships and sleep well, a crucial element in mental development.
Rajani Pattabhiraman, Principal of Euro School in Mumbai, says, “We have found that children are doubly attentive when they come to class refreshed.  Therefore, the day’s time-table is designed in such a way that classes are interspersed with skating, taekwondo, dance or craft.”  A tiny Nordic nation has known this secret for decades.  On a regular school day, students and teachers in Finland take a 15-minute break after every 45mins of class.  Students head outdoors to play and chit-chat with friends., teachers go to the lounge and unwind.  Tim Walker, an American teacher in Helsinki, questioned the Finnish practice of giving 15-minute breaks each hour.  But he became a convert after he saw the difference it made to his students.  On his blog, Taught by Finland, he writes : no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom……… my Finnish students would —– without fail —– enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps {and} were more focused during lessons.”
During the course of her research, Hanscom found that a majority of children, surveyed, had poor core strength and balance.  The restricted movement pattern means that many children are walking around with an under-developed vestibular(balance) system.  In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their bodies in all directions, for hours at a time.  A child’s body displays a natural reaction ——— FIDGETING ——– so as to get the movement the body needs to “turn the brain on”.  Instead, teachers ask them to sit still and pay attention, putting their brain into “sleep mode”.  Can schools consider extending recesses ?  Teachers and Principals are unwilling to get into this debate, with completion of course work a primary worry.
Doctor Richard House, child psychologist and editor of “Too  Much, Too Soon” suggests that until age six, a child’s physical development should take precedence over cognitive learning.  Physical development needs to occur first, because if cognitive, quasi-formal learning is engaged with prematurely, this can actually interfere with the child’s overall holistic development.
——Khushali P Madhwani

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