Parents of children who have ADHD may want to think twice about letting their child walk to or from school without being accompanied by a parent in the new school year. A study shows that kids who have ADHD are not very good at safely crossing the street. In general, they tend to misjudge how much time it will take for them to cross without being hit by an oncoming vehicle.
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, includes symptoms that would make it more difficult for a child to stay safe in many situations. One very noticeable symptom is an inability to maintain focus on things, including things that are very important to pay attention to at that moment.
Another symptom is a high degree of impulsiveness. This can take the form of blurting out whatever the child is thinking about, to physically running somewhere without giving it much thought. These are not the only symptoms of ADHD, but they are ones that will make it more difficult for kids with ADHD to safely cross a street.
A study that was lead by Despina Stavrinos, who is an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Alabama, reveals that kids who have ADHD are not good at judging how much time they need in order to get across a street safely.
These children will take a moment to look both ways before they cross the street, and may appear as if they have learned how to safely cross it. However, the kids simply are not good at judging the difference between when they will make it across the road as compared to how soon the oncoming car will be in that same space. The study showed that this group of kids was having a lot of close calls with traffic.
Now, before you worry, the study did not actually allow kids with poor judgment skills to attempt to cross streets “in the real world”. It was done virtually. The study had 78 children in it. All the kids were between the ages of 7 and 10 years old, and half of the group had been diagnosed with ADHD. The other half of the group was the “control group”, and they were matched with the first group in terms of age and gender.
All of the children in the study were asked to go for a full 24 hours without their medications before they were tested. I can only imagine what that must have been like for some parents to experience. The researchers had the children in the study walk a 25 foot distance a few times, in order to measure each child’s typical walking speed.
Next, the kids were asked to complete ten simulated street crossings using a virtual street environment. The simulator had cars coming from both directions, just like the kids could face in the real world. Each child stood on a wooden block, which acted as the “curb”. They were told to step off the block when they believed it was safe to cross the street. Their virtual avatar then crossed the street. No children were harmed in this study.
Parents of kids who have ADHD may want to start picking their child up from school, either by driving to get them, or by walking to the school. Many children who have ADHD experience their medications wearing off at the end of the school day, which will make their symptoms become worse.
Image by Arlington County on Flickr