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Recess decreased, ADHD increased!

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There seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of time kids spend outside with their level of "hyperactivity." Yet, for years we've been slowly decreasing the amount of physical activity kids get in school.

According to the CDC April 2010 report titled The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance, "Many schools are attempting to increase instructional time for mathematics, English, and science in an effort to improve standards-based test scores. As a result, physical education classes, recess, and other physical activity breaks often are decreased or eliminated during the school day...in 2006 only 57% of all school districts required that elementary schools provide students with regularly scheduled recess."

This is unfortunate because, as highlighted in the report's academic studies of physical activity and child academic performance, recess improves children's learning ability. (see below excerpt.)

Recess Studies:

  • "All eight studies found one or more positive associations between recess
    and indicators of cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behavior.
  • Time spent in recess appears to have a positive relationship or no relationship
    with children’s attention, concentration, and/or on-task classroom behavior."

We ignore the data and continue to cut physical activities from our kids school days! This is particularly detrimental to kids labeled attention-deficit hyperactivity disordered (ADHD). Research shows that kids diagnosed ADHD have improved behavior when given lots of time in physical play.

ADHD is at an all time high, and this is not a coincidence. Children as young as 4 are being misdiagnosed! It's a crisis! Kids are naturally rambunctious, full of energy, but we do not allow them constructive ways to use this energy throughout their days. Some kids need more physical play than others, and when they do not get enough physical activity to dispel their hyper impulse they begin to act out. The place where this is most evident is in the classroom. Unfortunately, this lack of activity/recess is impacting our boys the most. Boys are twice as likely to be labeled ADHD or learning disabled as girls!! Why? Because they are less likely be be able to sit still in class. This makes it more difficult for boys to thrive in traditional school environments, especially as their recess is being stolen from them.

The Department of Health for the state of Florida recommends daily recess to combat obesity and facilitate learning. In their report "Action For Healthy Kids" released back in 2003, they stated that recess increased academic achievement, reduced fidgety behavior, and provided opportunities for wonder, creative thinking, imagination and self-direction.

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called "The Crucial Role of Recess in School" argues recess benefits the whole child. The main researchers on the project determined recess is an essential component to a child's development. It is a much-needed break time for kids that encourages creative expression, social engagement and physical exertion. "It should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."

Yet, as of today, Florida has only one measly physical education requirement for grades K-8: "Each district school board shall provide 150 minutes of physical education each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 and for students in grade 6 who are enrolled in a school that contains one or more elementary grades so that on any day during which physical education instruction is conducted there are at least 30 consecutive minutes per day."

The Alachua County School Board has acknowledged this state statute to provide 150 minutes of physical education each week for grades K-5. But, I do NOT believe that 30 minutes is enough play time for highly active elementary kids!

The AAP study stated that, "In other countries, such as Japan, primary school-aged children have a 10- to 15-minute break every hour, and this is thought to reflect the fact that attention spans begin to wane after 40 to 50 minutes of intense instruction. On the basis of this premise, to maximize cognitive benefits, recess should be scheduled at regular intervals, providing children sufficient time to regain their focus before instruction continues." So, there you have it! More frequent breaks are needed! But, we Americans refuse to comply, and our children are paying the price. Something needs to be done!

We cannot keep labeling our children as "disordered" when it is us who needs to change. We've taken a natural characteristic of childhood (highly energetic) and labeled it ADHD. Though recess is but one component in this ADHD crisis, it is an important component. We make our kids sit still all day (which goes against every impulse in their little beings) and label them "learning disabled" when they can't comply. We need to demand better of ourselves, and each other. No more unrealistic expectations of elementary kids; NO MORE MEDICATING perfectly normal, healthy little boys and girls. STOP the ADHD crisis...bring back recess!!!!

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