Nature helps struggling children

A quick walk through the park or a forest preserve might go a long way towards helping improve the concentration of a child with ADHD.

A recent study by the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (LHHL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that brief walks in a green, natural setting helped children achieve higher concentration scores directly afterwards than walks in the city or a neighborhood. All participants were between the ages of 7 and 12 years old and were professionally diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“These results suggest that it’s something that’s worth trying,” says Andrea Faber Taylor, a Child Environment and Behavior Researcher at LHHL."There’s no harm in taking your child to the park, or taking your child to a nice green backyard and making it part of your daily routine or your weekly routine as a means of supporting children with ADHD and at least temporarily reducing their symptoms.”

Faber Taylor suggests having children spend some after-school time playing outdoors in a green space, instead of watching TV or playing video games. The calming effect kids experience might then help them concentrate when buckling down to finish homework later in the day.

Dr. Ari Goldstein, director of the Cognitive Solutions Learning Center in Chicago, says that in addition to proper nutrition and exercise, exposure to nature can play a significant role in managing ADHD symptoms because it can simplify a busy schedule or lifestyle.

“I think the nature piece certainly helps because it helps kids get calm,” Goldstein says."I think it brings them back to center rather than constantly distracted. Most kids today are fast-paced. They’re always watching TV or texting.”

The Cognitive Solutions Learning Center is known for taking a nonmedicinal approach to treating ADHD. It focuses on supplementation, teaching children self-monitoring and working with their parents, Goldstein says.

For more information about the study, visit the LHHL’s Web site at lhhl.uiuc.edu.

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