Teachers and parents of children with ADHD know all too well how easily these special children can get distracted. The majority of research has shown that children with ADHD focus better and stay on task more when they are in an environment free from stimulation. But there is some evidence that specific stimulation can have a positive effect on these children. “Other studies have shown that background music significantly improves performance on cognitive tasks for children with ADHD but does not impact or negatively impact the performance of non-ADHD controls,” said W.E. Pelham, Jr. of the Department of Psychology at the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University, and lead author of a study on distraction among ADHD boys. “Despite these research findings, classroom teachers and the committees that revise the DSM continue to report and conclude that children with ADHD are more easily distracted than children without ADHD, and that distractors have only negative effects.”
Pelham examined how music or videos affected the attention of boys with ADHD who were non-medicated versus boys who were on methylphenidate (MPH) in a classroom environment. In three separate studies, Pelham found that the boys responded well to only musical stimulus. “Video produced significant distraction, particularly for the boys with ADHD, and MPH improved the performance of boys with ADHD across distractor conditions,” said Pelham. “In the presence or absence of music, MPH improved performance relative to placebo.” However, Pelham noted that although the video distracted all of the children, and specifically the children with ADHD, music had a beneficial effect, improving productivity in the boys with ADHD. “Thus, rather than recommending that children with ADHD perform homework in complete silence, our results suggest that listening to music while studying will not hurt most and may help some children with ADHD.” He added, “Rather than isolating a child with ADHD in a stimulus-free environment, these findings suggest that providing the child with headphones on which he or she could listen to music while working may enhance the classroom productivity of some children with ADHD.”
Pelham, Jr., William E., Daniel A. Waschbusch, Betsy Hoza, Elizabeth M. Gnagy, Andrew R. Greiner, Susan E. Sams, Gary Vallano, Antara Majumdar, and Randy L. Carter. “Music and Video as Distractors for Boys with ADHD in the Classroom: Comparison with Controls, Individual Differences, and Medication Effects.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 39 (2011): 1085-098. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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