Over the past six years, during numerous consultations with families who live and work outside of their homelands, I have had many parents ask me questions about Attention Deficit Disorder, as well as other neurological disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders. Most parents want to know why we are seeing a greater prevalence of these disorders then 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Some wonder if the diagnoses were just not being made or if kids are being over-diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) today. While there may be some truth to those claims, it behooves us to look at what has changed. We can definitely see that technology has changed. As parents, we know that kids today spend less time outside playing and much more time sitting indoors in front of televisions, computers, or game machines.
One day, a fellow education consultant told me about Richard Louv ’s book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (LC). This piqued my curiosity, so I picked up a copy and began to wonder even more about the effects of technology on our children’s generation. Louv cites studies done in 2004 that link television watching to ADHD…and says, “Children’s hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle maintains that each hour of TV watched per day by preschoolers increases by 10 percent the likelihood that they will develop concentration problems and other symptoms of attention-deficit disorders by age seven” (p. 102 LC). Until reading his book, I had no idea that at the time his book was written (2005), “nearly 8 million children in the U.S.” were suffering from various neurological disorders such as ADHD (p. 100 LC). He even reveals studies in his book that show the benefits of nature therapy for assisting in the treatment of ADHD, and in some cases replacing the need for medicinal or behavioral therapies (p. 100 LC).
The questions many parents were asking me regarding the prevalence of these disorders today versus 50-60 years ago could be linked to not only technological changes, but changes in exposure to nature. Louv states that sixty years ago many kids grew up in families with an agricultural connection and that boys and girls spent their time and energy “in constructive ways: doing farm chores…splashing in the swimming hole, climbing trees, racing to the sandlot for a game of baseball” (P. 102 LC). He discusses the results many parents find when their kids spend more time outside, like: less stress and reduced hyperactivity.
If you are a parent or teacher concerned about your children with ADHD or another neurological disorder, I would recommend that you read Last Child in the Woods. Even if you do not have the time to read the whole book, at least look at pages 360-385 where Louv offers over 100 actions to stimulate you and your child’s creativity in nature. Additionally, you may be interested in reading pages 103-105 to learn about something called “directed-attention fatigue” and how it leads to “impulsive behavior, agitation, irritation, and inability to concentrate.” Follow the research on how nature can restore and relieve those with directed-attention fatigue, and how green spaces can help children with ADHD think more clearly and deal better with stress. Based on his research, Louv reports that “greenery in a child’s everyday environment, even views of green through a window, specifically reduces attention-deficit symptoms” and he offers several tips for helping your child at home and in the classroom (pp. 106-107 LC).
Did you miss the earlier articles on this topic?
Back to Nature, part 1 (Intro to “Last Child in the Woods”).
The Nature Zone. (A Review of Louv’s book: “The Nature Principle”).
Or, on Delana’s World, read:
Less Traveled Road (An adventure story in Central Asia).
Hit The Bunny Trail (A story about running in nature.)
You may also be interested in this link from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/news/20040827/nature-helps-fight-adhd