My Kid Won't Sit Still
Sara squirmed in her seat, gazing out the window while her classmates focused on the lesson. Her teacher had to repeat instructions multiple times before Sara began the assignment. After a few minutes, she was up sharpening her pencil for the third time.
Does this sound familiar? It's normal for kids to be restless or unfocused occasionally. We often hear from families who are overwhelmed by all the information and misinformation out there. Paying attention to what and when children eat, when and how much daily activity they get, sleep patterns, as well as practicing social and emotional skills such as mindfulness and how to ask for help are key ingredients for a healthy and happy childhood.
Is This "Normal" Behavior?
Behaviors such as squirming or getting distracted are common in children going through normal developmental stages. The key to understanding if this is cause for concern lies in frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms.
While all kids may occasionally:
Have trouble paying attention
Fidget or feel restless
In ADHD these behaviors are:
Severe enough to interfere with school, social activities, or home
Persistent over at least 6 months
Symptoms also change with age. Younger children may show:
Constant motion and trouble sitting still
Difficulty engaging in quiet activities
Older children may struggle more with:
Staying focused on tasks and following instructions
Organizational skills like keeping track of homework
Does my child have ADHD?
In his Ted Talk Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson shares the following:
“This is the modern epidemic, the plague of ADHD, and it’s fictitious. Don’t mistake me; I don’t mean to say there is no such thing as Attention-Deficit Disorder… What I do know for a fact is it’s not an epidemic. These kids are being medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out, and on the same whimsical basis and for the same reason: medical fashion.
Our children are living in the most intensive stimulating period in the history of the earth. They’re being besieged with information and coerced for attention from every platform: computers, from iPhones, from advertising hoardings, from hundreds of television channels. And we’re penalizing them now for getting distracted. From what? Boring stuff.
At school, for the most part. It seems to me not a coincidence, totally, that the instance of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of the standardized testing. Now these kids are being given Ritalin and Aderol and all manner of things, often quite dangerous drugs, to get them focused and calm them down… It’s a fictitious epidemic."
As parents, we are programmed to react when we notice certain behaviors in our children. The truth of the matter is that not all brains are wired the same, nor do they have the same chemistry. Understanding how your child's brain works can be a tremendous gift for your child as it may help you to better see them for who they are.
Identifying ADHD starts with an evaluation by a pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist to rule out other possible causes for symptoms. They will look for clear evidence of impaired functioning at home, school, or with friends that:
Is inappropriate for the child's age
Affects more than one setting like home and school
Has been present for at least 6 months
Parent and teacher input through interviews and rating scales provides key information on how symptoms impact the child's daily life.
Tips to Support Your Child
Here are some tips from WebMD to help your child thrive
:Get plenty of rest: Children ages 6-12 should get 9-12 hours of sleep per night.
Eat the right foods: Our bodies and our brains need the right nutrition to function. Check out these 7 Brain Foods for Kids.
Get organized. Use tools like daily planners, folders, and checklists to help stay focused.
Limit distractions. Create a quiet space for homework or reading time away from screens, loud noises, or visual clutter.
Add movement. Take breaks for a quick stretch, jumping jacks, or chair push-ups to help refocus their energy.
Use timers. Set gentle alerts to help transition between tasks or know when time is up.
Model mindfulness. Practice breathing, meditation, or yoga together to build their attention skills.
As Ken Robinson said in his famous Ted Talk, we need to "wake students up to what they have inside of themselves" instead of anesthetizing them against their nature. With the right support, children with ADHD can tap into their full creative and intellectual potential.