…It might be more than behavior and attention

By: Dr. Ali

Do you feel like your child never stops moving? Like they are here, there and everywhere, running in between destinations and fidgeting in their chair while eating a meal? Even if you have asked them to take a pause they seem to not listen, or be physically unable to follow the instructions you are giving to slow down, even if they are traditionally a very good listener? Being in constant motion can be related to certain diagnoses, like ADHD. ADHD often presents with additional signs and symptoms, like forgetfulness, difficulty staying on task, trouble listening while another is talking, excessive talking, unsafe and impulsive behavior, and/or trouble with turn taking. Regardless of whether your child has a diagnosis of ADHD or not, there may be another factor contributing to their need for constant motion.

That “thing” is something we PT’s call postural control. Postural control defined as the act of maintaining, achieving, or restoring a state of balance during any posture or activity (1). When someone has a very “fine tuned” postural system, their body, vestibular system (little balance center in the ears), and eyes are telling their brain where they are in space and what position their body has to hold. Then their brain sends signals to the muscles to hold that specific position. In order for all of this to work, the eyes, the vestibular system, and the body have to send accurate signals, the brain has to correctly process this information, and the body must be able to coordinate muscles on all sides to hold the position steady. Phew, even thinking about this long process can make someone tired! 

When there is misinformation, trouble processing the information, or trouble coordinating the body in response to the brain’s signals, it will show in the body. When this happens, the child’s body may sway back and forth while they are trying to sit still in a chair, they may need to continuously move their feet instead of standing still, or they may just keep changing position when the one they are currently in becomes too hard to hold. When children are in constant motion, it often shows us PT’s that they are stuck constantly “restoring” their state of balance, as opposed to “maintaining” as the definition says above. Their body feels like it is always at risk of falling, so they move to catch themselves and prevent this. It may not look like that is what is happening when they are step, step, stepping, but if they are stuck constantly restoring their balance with decreased postural control, this is what their body is telling them is happening. 

When we see kids who show us this constant need for motion, we help them improve their postural control so that they can achieve and maintain steady postures. This is important for so many reasons other than just giving them greater stability. Sometimes when postural control improves, a child has an easier time paying attention to tasks and school lessons, because part of their brain isn’t being used to keep them on balance. All of that brain energy that was being used to signal movement that would prevent them from falling can be allotted to other things, because their balance system is operating on autopilot!

If you see your child having difficulty staying still and want to get another opinion, come in to KidPT for a free discovery visit, and a PT can answer any questions you may have about this topic!

References: 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10945424/#:~:text=Postural%20control%20is%20defined%20as,change%2Din%2Dsupport%20response.

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