Study Finds Children with ADHD Squirm to Maintain Alertness

squirmy girl

I know the feeling of being constantly squirmy.

I’m a fidgety person… when excessively tired.

Like at this very moment.


My brain doesn’t belong to me right now.  It’s not obeying my forced commands to focus leading a multitude of tasks to remain incomplete.

I’m mentally giggling at random videos and tuning out to favorite songs instead of diverting my attention towards my courses, my blog, my work.

I’ve drank more than 3 cups of coffee to no avail.  Still no energy, still no focus.


I have previously noted that I have Idiopathic Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) and while not much is understood about its pathology; I do understand how frustrating it is.

I take stimulants when necessary during the workweek for productivity purposes and the days I do not take it I, like today; I see, feel, and experience the difference full force.

I was reading this article from the University of Central Florida on recent research findings for ADHD.   While I don’t have an ADHD diagnosis, the feelings of concentration difficulties and squirminess are very close to home.

Either way the article brought up a very interesting point that I feel may be helpful to many parents or ADHD sufferers out there.  So read on:

…New research conducted at UCF shows that if you want ADHD kids to learn, you have to let them squirm. The foot-tapping, leg-swinging and chair-scooting movements of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are actually vital to how they remember information and work out complex cognitive tasks, according to a study published in an early online release of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.


“The typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It’s exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of children with ADHD,” said one of the study’s authors, Mark Rapport, head of the Children’s Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida. “The message isn’t ‘Let them run around the room,’ but you need to be able to facilitate their movement so they can maintain the level of alertness necessary for cognitive activities.”


The research has major implications for how parents and teachers should deal with ADHD kids, particularly with the increasing weight given to students’ performance on standardized testing. The study suggests that a majority of students with ADHD could perform better on classroom work, tests and homework if they’re sitting on activity balls or exercise bikes, for instance.


The study at the UCF clinic included 52 boys ages 8 to 12. Twenty-nine of the children had been diagnosed with ADHD and the other 23 had no clinical disorders and showed normal development.


Each child was asked to perform a series of standardized tasks designed to gauge “working memory,” the system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning and comprehension.


Children were shown a series of jumbled numbers and a letter that flashed onto a computer screen, then asked to put the numbers in order, followed by the letter. A high-speed camera recorded the kids, and observers recorded their every movement and gauged their attention to the task.


Rapport’s previous research had already shown that the excessive movement that’s a trademark of hyperactive children – previously thought to be ever-present – is actually apparent only when they need to use the brain’s executive brain functions, especially their working memory.

The new study goes an important step further, proving the movement serves a purpose.


“What we’ve found is that when they’re moving the most, the majority of them perform better,” Rapport said. “They have to move to maintain alertness.”


By contrast, the children in the study without ADHD also moved more during the cognitive tests, but it had the opposite effect: They performed worse.

So in summation:

Who knew?! So let em’ squirm! Stop telling them to sit still and quit fidgeting: it does more harm than good.   As for myself, I squirm not only to maintain alertness but also to prevent my limbs and myself from falling asleep.  So I’m hoping my brain will become cooperative again sometime soon.  Until then, I will sit at my desk, fidgeting and squirming, waiting for my freedom at 3 O’Clock.

Do you or anyone you know have ADHD? Does squirming help them remain alert?   

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  • Melanie
    April 24, 2015 at 11:08 AM

    This was a really interesting read! Thanks for sharing!
    Melanie @

    • AwesomelyOZ
      April 27, 2015 at 11:10 AM

      Glad to hear it! You’re welcome and have a great week Melanie! -Iva

  • MarlaJan @ Luck Fupus
    April 24, 2015 at 3:19 PM

    Well, who knew! My nephew PJ has Austism, and is definitely severe ADHD, and it seems everyone is always trying to get him to “control his body.” How can he control something he has no control over? (that question makes sense in my head) I’m sending this over to my sister, I’m sure she’ll get a lot out of it!

    • AwesomelyOZ
      April 27, 2015 at 11:35 AM

      That’s what is shocking – is they want kids to sit still and pay attention for hours on end. They’re KIDS! Especially with ADHD, they can’t.. Leave them be! LOl My son has moments when he starts moving his hands NONSTOP and wants to touch EVERYTHING; so to help him I say put your hands in your pockets and rub the interior of the weather or whatever.. Lol It helps when he remembers but it’s all short-lived. I’ve learned to let it go. He doesn’t have ADHD, HE’S A BOY! 🙂 Hope you’re recovering well gorgeous!! Take Care of yourself MJ -Iva

  • Jen
    April 26, 2015 at 2:30 PM

    Dude can I please just say I’ve been dying for the entire world to get rid of chairs entirely at desks, any desk ever in the entire world, and replace them with those giant exercise balls. When I was pregnant I sat on one of those suckers at work and lemmie tell ya, it was great for my hips, back, and core. Chairs suck. Sitting still sucks. I think all kids should sit on exercise balls. Let’s do this.

    • AwesomelyOZ
      April 27, 2015 at 11:46 AM

      LOL!! You’re ballsy to be using a giant exercise ball at work. I love this fluffy chair I have but I need to remember to get up every 30 minutes to AT LEAST once an hour since I’ve read the detrimental effects of sitting for long periods of time. It just hit me when you said that that our kids sit at htose desks all damn day!! OMG awful!! LET’S BOYCOTT THESE DESKS! Agreed – balance is key! 🙂 Have a great one cutie! Take Care Jen -Iva

  • Roaen
    April 26, 2015 at 8:07 PM

    let them squirm! I’m a grown up and I still squirm in meetings, while reading, at church, etc. I think for some people, even those without ADHD, it’s soothing and actually helps them focus!

    • AwesomelyOZ
      April 27, 2015 at 11:47 AM

      Me too! I am so fidgety – I don’t even care, I just get up when I want to but kids don’t have that luxury. I do recall that being a huge problem for me at school is that feeling of the world sinking in because you couldn’t get up when you wanted – breaks were so heavenly. I agree!! 🙂 Hmm now I’m going to get an insider’s opinion: my 7 year old. Lol Take Care Roaen! -Iva

  • jackie
    April 26, 2015 at 8:54 PM

    ah this is so interesting. my husband gets fidgety so i guess i will just let him go with it more if it helps him!

    • AwesomelyOZ
      April 27, 2015 at 11:48 AM

      Haha that’s awesome – yes let the man breath 🙂 It’s probably better for him when he does. 🙂 Glad you found it interesting! Take Care Jackie! -Iva

  • Tamara
    April 27, 2015 at 11:43 AM

    I say let them squirm! Squirm away! I certainly fidget when I’m nervous but not really other times. I am SO tired today, though. I had this strange insomnia last night and that doesn’t happen often for me. I just couldn’t kick all the swirling thoughts. Eventually I did and I was dreaming I was looking for moose.
    So that was really nice!
    I don’t know many kids or adults with ADHD, but maybe they’re just not always talking about it and it’s there but I don’t know it.

    • AwesomelyOZ
      April 27, 2015 at 12:44 PM

      Agreed! I do the same thing as an adult and I’m supposed to “Know better” but it feels right Tamara, it feels right. I’ve had those rare insomnia moments; and rare they are indeed – it’s usually when I’m excited about something or want to listen to a song before bed (weird I know). Lol that’s so cute – moose cures your insomnia 🙂 Only you lovely. Take Care and happy Monday Tam Tam! -Iva

    • AwesomelyOZ
      April 28, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      Exactly, I agree there’s an over-exaggeration of ADHD diagnosis going around. I don’t believe in medicating kids unless they’re THAT violent but even the most aggressive dog can be trained, so can kids Lol. 😛 You’re right that we expect kids to sit still and focus like adults do but that’s not how it works either; there is just too much stimulation now compared to even 30 years ago – kids are not going to behave the same as children from 30 years ago. Adults can barely focus for more than a few minutes, children are WAY worse! Take Care Kathy! Talk Soon -Iva

  • Rachel G
    June 16, 2015 at 9:12 PM

    I’m not ADHD, but I pretty much find sitting still impossible–I don’t know for sure why, but I have mild scoliosis and most normal sitting positions feel uncomfortable to me pretty quickly–I just blame it on the crooked spine. 🙂 I’m glad I didn’t go to a school where I had to fit with feet on the floor, that would have been majorly annoying.

    • AwesomelyOZ
      June 18, 2015 at 11:08 AM

      I have some low back pain as well and I try to be mindful of my posture and strengthen my core as much as I can. I’m still pretty lazy but I try to be mindful. My son isn’t ADHD but he still can’t sit still for long periods of time – but he’s a kid and he’s a boy so it’s commonplace. It is tough sitting still for prolong periods of time, whether an adult or a child, so I can see how moving/squirming may help combat these long periods of sitting. Hope your crooked spine treats you well Rachel! Thanks for stopping by! -Iva


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