- Written by Dave Pughe-Parry Dave Pughe-Parry
Fidgeting is very good for concentration and focus! Sounds crazy, but just like so many things in ADHD, the paradox is valid.
Christian Horner is a high profile foot tapper. (I am not saying in any way that he has ADHD!) The boss of the Formula 1 Red Bull Racing team is renowned for video footage of his foot tapping during races.
He sits on the pit wall in front of dozens of screens filled with data and telemetry from the Red Bull cars. The more tense the race for his drivers, the more vigorously his foot taps.
You will no doubt have seen people who bounce their legs, tap their pencils or pens, or drum their fingers on the most accessible surface. You might even have seen children who like to "stand" at their desks, sort of leaning on them, but not sitting.
In a small study just released, David Sarver, the lead author is quoted as saying, “We think that part of the reason is that when they’re moving more they’re increasing their alertness.”
I am personally very happy that this is now being proven, most Occupational Therapists and a few ADHD coaches have known about this for many years.
Occupational Therapists (OT's) have a wonderful array of gadgets and gizmos that actually absorb fidgeting. There are cushions that resemble very large slices of Gouda cheese. When these are sat on, they provide a "natural" ability to fidget, and so increase the ability to focus for longer.
Sitting on a Pilates ball instead of a chair - in a tyre please so we don't fall off - does the same job.
An old favourite is to tie an old pair of stockings around the front legs of the chair, the person then hooks their feet behind the stockings providing gentle movement.
Paradoxically, providing weight or squeezing actions has the same effect. Ponchos, jackets, or blankets with lead weights stitched in, and then draped over the shoulders also increases focus and concentration. In some cases, just draping an unheated bean bag over the shoulders works just as well.
Some OT's even have bags of Spandex that they put the children in at the start of a session. A long time OT friend and ADHD expert based in Cape Town, Dana Katz, even asks her huge undersea diver husband to squash her when she feels "hyper" - a sort of huge bear hug. My wife and partner, Pat, will also sometimes ask for a bear hug, "I need some grounding," she says.
The point is, when you are feeling hyper, it is almost impossible to focus or concentrate on what you need to do. Adding to feeling restless is that we often don't know where to start, now you have the ideal situation for not doing anything, and/or getting into trouble - sometimes serious trouble.
While these "fidget gadgets" are really good and work for most people most of the time, their implementation is fraught with difficulties.
Imagine the jokes about the child having to sit on a poof cushion, or wear a weighted jacket, and being the only kid in the class. We know that kids can be very cruel.
ADHD is without doubt a very complex condition, made more difficult by not only the seeming incomprehensible actions of ADDers, but the paradoxes of treatment.
A final point about these "fidget gadgets," they should never take the place of any other treatment aspect, they will be amazingly better when coupled with medication, exercise, a loving and understanding family life, and a pragmatic eating and life style.
There are no "alternative treatments" for ADHD. It is sheer lunacy to think that such a complex condition can be treated with just a single treatment therapy.
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Cushion Pictures: Gymnic
Christian Horner Picture: Wikipedia
You might want to check out this good South African Site: Cleverfish
Dustin E. Sarver, Mark D. Rapport, Michael J. Kofler, Joseph S. Raiker, Lauren M. Friedman. (2015). Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.