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Therapist Can’t Sit Still and Focus at School But Kids Are Expected To

By: Krystle Crossman

When you were in school were you able to make it through an entire day without fidgeting, slouching, or losing your focus? Not many people were able to accomplish this feat. It has been a discussion for a while now among parents and teachers about how children are having a really hard time focusing in school because they are not meant to sit all day long in one position with so few breaks. It is a source of frustration for teachers and the students alike. Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, had taken note of younger elementary school-aged children and what their focus was like when they had to sit all day and then she decided that she needed to get a little more info on middle school children. She spent a day, or tried to spend a whole day, in a middle school classroom to observe the daily routine of the middle school kids.

Hanscom quickly realized that she was bored. She was bouncing her leg up and down. She was twisting in awkward positions to try and keep her mind from drifting off into a daydream. She was trying everything that she could to remain focused but she just couldn’t do it. And this was only for one 90 minute class. She had looked around and realized that she wasn’t the only one. Kids were moving around in their seats. They were sitting in the most uncomfortable of positions. They were finding excuses just to get up for a few minutes such as going to the bathroom or sharpening a pencil. Anything that would get them moving. Hanscom left after the lunch period because she couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t understand how these kids could go about a six hour day with so few breaks and so little movement.

One of the teachers that she spoke with said it was extremely frustrating because they knew that the kids had to move around. They know they needed more exercise through the day and more breaks so that they could focus. They weren’t given the time to do that. The increase in demanding tests required them to cram as much information into their students’ brains as they could. This meant fewer breaks, shorter breaks, and working snack breaks. Even recesses at many schools have been done away with because of kids getting minor scrapes and bruises which parents complained about. But then the parents would complain that their children weren’t getting enough exercise through the day at school. Gym class is usually only held once every six days so there isn’t much opportunity there.

One parent at the school that Hanscom visited met with as many administrators and school board members as she could to try and get a petition through to allow their children extended breaks and more movement. The school compromised with a ten minute walk outside (or inside when the weather was bad) after lunch. She said it was at least something but still wasn’t enough. These kids are ruining their bodies with the positions they try to sit in so they can pay attention. They are tired and mentally exhausted when they get home. They don’t get the chance to really be kids, play, and get the exercise that they really need.

It seems that there are few solutions that are being thrown out there to try and help our kids to get up and get focused. One teacher said that she teaches a lesson while they are out walking on a nature trail that is behind the school. She said that there are many areas where kids can walk with their teachers to a museum or on a walking trail and bring a journal to write about what they are seeing and hearing. This is one of the many benefits of home-schooling, you can bring your kids outside for some activity whenever you want. You can have them moving with project-based learning instead of sitting for a lecture all day long.

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