Natural Settings May Help Counteract ADHD
> 8/4/2006 12:09:53 PM

In a conclusion that could strengthen the case for certain non-traditional teaching methods, a combination of results from recent studies suggests that activities in greener outdoor settings can temper the symptoms of ADHD in many children. Operating on the theory that natural surroundings provide fewer distractions and allow for more active play, researchers recorded the responses of parents comparing degrees of ADHD symptoms after their children performed recreational activities in varied settings: indoors, outdoors in a green environment and outdoors in a more industrial environment. The results of this 2004 study indicate that children in the most natural settings seemed less anxious and more focused:

This provocative study is based upon research conducted with non-ADHD populations in which it has been shown that inattention and impulsivity are reduced after exposure to natural views and settings...Natural environments are suggested to assist in the recovery from "attention fatigue", in part, because they "engage the mind effortlessly, providing a respite from having to deliberately direct attention."  This may explain the feelings of freshness and rejuvenation that is commonly experienced after one spends times in natural settings.

A separate but similar study began with an internet advertisement on the website of CHADD (a nonprofit dedicated to children and adults living with ADHD). Parents rated common extracurricular activities in terms of how they affected the ADHD symptoms displayed by their children: were they worse, better or unchanged? Participating parents knew nothing of the study's purpose, and the study grouped children by gender, economic class, severity of condition, and geological location (urban/rural). The results showed that, across all groups, parents believed their children to be calmer and better behaved after playing outdoors in natural environments. Considering that children might participate in different sorts of play when not indoors, authors also tested for identical activities and achieved the same results.

Though imprecise, these studies support the common sense conclusion that an afternoon at the park or the playground will be more beneficial to an affected child than the same period spent in front of the television or computer screen. Their most promising indication is that students with ADHD would be better served by school schedules that include varied outdoor activities, as some of these kids' greatest struggles involve sitting in a classroom chair and responding to forced stimuli for hours on end. 

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