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Let 'Em Fidget

Posted by on in Studentcentricity
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stress ball I have always been a fidgeter. I don’t know what that indicates about me, but I don’t sit still well. Moreover, when I’m standing around and waiting – for example, at an airport – I sway side to side. It soothes me. Being told I couldn’t do any fidgeting or swaying would lead to a heck of a lot of frustration. And, though I’m quite sure I don’t have ADHD, like children who do, all of my concentration would be focused on staying still. Not very productive.

You may not be as much of a fidgeter as I am. But surely you’ve had the experience of being in a staff meeting, or at a conference, where you were required to sit and listen for long periods. How did you fare? It’s likely it was a challenge. And, of course, thanks to brain research we now know that sitting increases fatigue and reduces concentration. So why would we ask students to sit more – let alone sit still?

Here’s a piece with some great suggestions to help kids who fidget: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/05/19/10-solutions-for-students-who-fidget-in-the-classroom/

And here are parting thoughts from the panelists in a discussion on this topic...

From Dustin Sarver:

Movement and activity level is functional in people. That is, it has a variety of purposes, and for children with ADHD, one of the major purposes is to maintain alertness to tasks—likely as a compensatory mechanism (similar to how people start shifting and moving after a long or boring meeting to increase their concentration). A second major purpose can be to escape or avoid tasks that are aversive (such as homework). The long-standing clinical and educational assumption is that movement is non-functional or that it potentially detracts from learning. For some movements, this might be the case, but for a portion of movements like fidgeting and squirming, we need to remember that it can actually be positively related in a large portion of children with ADHD.

From Melanie Link Taylor:

Teachers can read a class and appreciate when it is helpful to stand up and stretch, reconfigure the desks for collaboration, or just do the Hokie Pokie. But training and staff collaboration assists in recognizing when the fidgets need more intervention and could signal a deeper problem than boredom or immaturity.

From Angela Hanscom:

The one thing I would love for listeners to take away is that fidgeting may be a sign of a bigger underlying problem -- that children are not nearly moving enough and we are starting to see the physical effects of this. The best advice is to make sure children have plenty of opportunities to move throughout the day and that they don't necessarily need to sit in order to learn. 

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Rae Pica has been an education consultant specializing in the development and education of the whole child, children's physical activity, and active learning since 1980. A former adjunct instructor with the University of New Hampshire, she is the author of 19 books, including the text Experiences in Movement and Music and, most recently, What If Everybody Understood Child Development?: Straight Talk About Bettering Education and Children's Lives. Rae has shared her expertise with such groups as the Sesame Street Research Department, the Head Start Bureau, Centers for Disease Control, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues, Gymboree, Nike, and state health departments throughout the country. She is a member of the executive committee of the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences and is co-founder of BAM Radio Network, where she hosts Studentcentricity, interviewing experts in education, child development, play research, the neurosciences, and more on teaching with students at the center.

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Guest Monday, 24 October 2016