“The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 11 per cent of all children in the U.S. aged 4-17 have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) — that was roughly 6.1 million American children in 2016, a 43 per cent increase since 2003. According to its 2015 report, the CDC says the total number of Americans — adults and children — with ADHD continues to rise — up from 7.8 per cent in 2003 to 9.5 per cent in 2007 and 11 per cent in 2011”.
When we look at what the experts tell us, on average, a 5-year-old child should be able to stay focused on a task for 2-5 minutes . This is addressing tasks such as colouring a picture, putting together a puzzle, or practising writing their letters. 2-5 minutes is all they have. This is an average. Some may only have one minute. How does this increase? Through practice, through repetition, through skill. It is a skill. Energetic children could be on the lower end. Notice my choice of words there (energetic).
A few great tips for helping small children learn this skill:
* Giving them enough activity, time to play and get their wiggles out. This goes for ALL children, not just young ones. Oftentimes children are given about 20 minutes outdoors in a 7-hour time window. Gym only happens once or twice a week. This is NOT enough. It would not be enough for me, and I do not have any issues with focus.
* Let them work on projects or play games that require their focus. Memory games are a great choice. When the child has completed a task, tell them “Good job, you focused or you concentrated on that very well”. By reinforcing with them what they actually did, they will begin to learn what that means. Practice.practice.practice….and plenty of reinforcement.
* Homework is done at the same time every day begins to foster a habit. Reward them with positive reinforcement when they have focused on the task and completed it.
*If you expect a small child to complete a task, they must have time to be active first.
*A child that struggles would benefit from activities alone over team sports that promote focus, like karate or dance for example.
How to help and what hinders:
“Approximately 3 to 5 per cent of school-aged children have ADHD, according to much of the literature over the past several years, including the Surgeon General’s Mental Health Report (1999, 2001)”. So there is a possibility that 1 or 2 children in a classroom of 20+ children will truly have an issue.
BUT, not everyone that has trouble focusing has an issue, especially if they are not allowed to move or talk much within their day. This is a fact often overlooked. Cause and effect……so important.
Outside of the examples, I have given to help teach small children how to practice focusing, what can increase the issue?
*We can easily see that children do not get to move nearly enough in their day. This needs to be addressed.
*Nutrition plays a HUGE part in exacerbation of symptoms. Studies published in The Lancet, Pediatrics, and Journal of Pediatrics found that food additives do in fact affect many children with ADHD negatively. Some even infer that artificial colouring and flavours, as well as the preservative sodium benzoate, a preservative found in specific food and drink, can make even some kids without ADHD hyperactive. Let that sink in. Food is a HUGE player in this equation for most children.
*While the studies are not entirely conclusive, research is suggesting that there is a role of essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3’s and cognitive disorders including ADHD. These studies reflect low levels of omega-3’s in those that suffer from the condition.
*Good gut health is imperative. “The gut-brain axis (GBA) refers to the close link and constant communication between our ‘two brains’: the one that everyone knows about in our head, and the one that we’ve just recently discovered in our gut,” explains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist.
Talbott states that there is a series of complex nerves surrounding our gut called the enteric nervous system, and therefore working to heal the gut will have a profound effect on the central nervous system (CNS) as a whole. This is news that everyone should hear. From ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health matters…. restoring gut health is really a critical piece that should not be overlooked.
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