Movement Feeds the Brain

As our kids head back to school one of the top concerns is their ability to maintain their attention.

Most school systems are not set up for optimal learning conditions because of having to sit for long periods of time. The longer we are still, the more our brain slows down as well as our body. It is natural to want to move or fidget to help keep the brain alert. Movement feeds the brain. In an ideal situation, we are getting up to move every 30 minutes if we are unable to be in motion during an activity. Just the act of standing up goes a long way in supporting our focus. So before heading out to school taking a few minutes to do some physical activity can help prepare the brain for what lies ahead.

There are a lot of personal factors that also contribute to a person’s ability to maintain focus and attention. How does our sensory system read the environment? Everyone needs movement for the brain/body to be in a state of homeostasis. Homeostasis is about keeping the body in a consistent state of balance. If we are aren’t in a state of homeostasis, then the brain/body becomes worried about safety and survival. When the brain/body is worried about safety, it then becomes busy scanning the environment for a threat. It doesn’t have much energy to care about staying focused on an activity in front of them.

Another part of the sensory system that is often not taken into consideration is the visual and auditory systems. Even if visual and auditory acuity is fine, the systems are often in a state of overwhelm. Or if there is difficulty with visual tracking then the brain needing the energy to compensate pulls away from the ability to maintain attention. If any system is out of balance it is draining to a person to overcome, and will take away from the brain’s resources to attend to what is being presented in front of them.

An additional area to consider is a person’s learning profile. Many do not learn well from the typical lecture/read system. Visual and kinesthetic learners are often left behind in the classroom. In general, each person has a learning dominance profile which affects the way we process information. When the teaching style doesn’t match a person’s learning style, then what might look like lack of attention might be a person having difficulty assimilating the information in that manner. Understanding the way a person learns goes a long way in supporting the ability to stay focused.

When I get a call from a family telling they need help with ADD or ADHD, I wonder if that is really the challenge. Does the person really have ADD/ADHD or do they just need help balancing all of the systems and honoring their learning style so can they easily thrive?