Moving and Grooving with ADHD


How can “Dancing With the Stars” lead me to write a blog about Moving and Grooving with ADHD?!  Well, let me give you a bit of backstory…

Does anyone else’s spouse force them to watch television shows with them or is it just my marriage?  Perhaps it could be a specific sports game they make you watch.  Maybe a riveting episode of the Bachelor where the eighth rose is going to be given out.  Even they may yell to you that the news is on and you need to hear the same stories that were on that afternoon and that morning! 

Well… I’m lucky enough that my spouse forces me to watch “Dancing With the Stars” every Monday night!

While watching the latest episode, one of the contestants on the show shared a story of his childhood and being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Hearing his story and how his family enrolled him in dance classes as a young child provided me with some inspiration and paired well with what I do in my own classroom.  Incorporating dance or movement breaks throughout the day could help deal with a hyperactive student.  


I am not a doctor, nor do I have any type of degree in the medical field.  I would never diagnose a student with ADHD nor would I ever indicate to a parent that they need to get their child tested.  The following is purely information from my experience in education and special education. These strategies could be used for all students, not just those diagnosed with ADHD.

If I said words such as: constant motion, calls out, fails to pay attention, names and faces would quickly come to mind.  Almost all children have times when their behavior veers out of control.  They may be exhibiting these behaviors, but also could drift away as if in a daydream, failing to pay attention to the task at hand.  However, for some children these kinds of behaviors are more than the occasional problem that a simple one-time redirection prompt wouldn’t work.

There are three different types of ADHD, as follows:

Three Different Types of ADHD

Inattentive Only Formerly known as ADD, children are not overly active.  They typically do not disrupt the classroom or other activities.  These students have a hard time paying attention, often “daydreams”, easily distracted and are sometimes disorganized.  
Hyperactive/Impulsive Children show both hyperactive behaviors: may squirm around, talks a lot, runs, jumps and climbs.  They also may display impulsive behaviors: calls out, has trouble taking turns, acts and speaks without thinking. 
Combined Inattentive/Hyperactive/Impulsive This is the most common type of ADHD where students show signs of all 3 symptoms of inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive.  

Even if a student is not diagnosed with ADHD, the following are best practices that could be used for all children in your classroom.  These Moving and Grooving ideas could be easily embedded into your school day whether on a virtual platform or face-to-face instruction.

Moving and Grooving #1 — Brain Breaks

Brain breaks are a perfect way to “reset”  a student’s day or to calm a hyper child from an active experience.  A teacher can easily incorporate these breaks throughout their program day.  Some ideas of where to place these breaks in your day could be after a test, between heavily content subjects, or after recess or gym.  I would suggest even keeping some in your “back pocket” for those moments where you can visually see that you are losing their attention or need a stretch break.  Check out this blog from Education to the Core for 25 Different Brain Breaks you could use in the classroom!

#2 — Yoga (Movement)

You don’t need a degree or certificate of yoga instruction to incorporate movement in your class.   I am a huge yoga participant.  Some families may feel uneasy about the word yoga regarding their own beliefs, so I tend to use the word movement.  I do stretches and varying poses with my students and they love to try to keep their balance.

#3 — Deep Breathing

I find when I need to do some deep breathing… so does my class.  I pair the deep breathing with the yoga mentioned above, but it can also be done throughout the day sitting in our seats.  Rhythmic deep-breathing is a relaxation technique that can provide a calm soothing feeling for students to help with impulsivity.  I teach my students to give me “5”.  We hold our pointer finger on one hand and all five fingers on the other hand.  We use the pointer finger to trace the other open hand, deep breath in through your nose tracing up our finger, then a deep breath out of your mouth tracing down your finger.  Then repeat for each finger that follows. 

Moving and Grooving #4 — Flexible Seating

Another great option for students experiencing trouble with attention or staying seated is to provide a flex seating option.  Some students complete work better if they are allowed to move during the lesson.  Seating such as a rocking chair or an exercise ball are two options for a student to use.  Of course, flexible seating comes along with teaching the expectations of how to sit properly and use them correctly.  Allowing the student to rock or move to get the wiggles out or to find a calm rhythm will help out in the long run regarding attention as well as less behavioral outbursts.

Rocking Chairs and Exercise Balls are just a couple of choices for flexible seating.


Moving and Grooving #5 — Use of Fidgets

A “fidget” is an item used for self-regulation to help with attention and calming a student. It aids with focus and attention by allowing the brain to filter sensory information. Fidgets come in all different textures and sizes and can be used throughout the day. Items like a squishy ball, a spinner, paper clip, pipe cleaner or an elastic hair band could be used.  Keeping the hands engaged in repetitive motor movements, the student is able to “tune out” distracting stimuli.  


As I stated before, all of these items have helped my students with ADHD in the past get Moving and Grooving.  They also can help those students who would benefit from taking a break and working some wiggles out from time to time.  If you have some items you suggest that help students keep focused and attentive, please share them in the comments below.  Together, we can make our classrooms a better environment for ALL types of learners.

Written by: Christopher Olson

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