Crossing the Street Can Be Risky for Kids With ADHD

Filed under: In The News, Special Needs, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens

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Albert Einstein may have helped unlock the secrets of the universe, but something as simple as crossing the street might have been difficult for him.

It's really not that simple. There are some pretty complicated physics involved. For one thing, your body and your mind have to occupy the same point in the time-space continuum. Your body can't be at Fourth and Main while your brain is somewhere in the Pleiades star cluster.

Kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a similar problem, according to researchers in Alabama.

Because these kids are what we used to refer to less clinically as "absent-minded," researchers say, they sometimes make incorrect decisions about when to cross the street and how long it will take to the get to other side.

WebMD reports some 5 percent of the American population has ADHD, a behavioral condition marked by impulsiveness, hyperactivity and (seeming) inattention. They can actually be quite attentive. It just may be to last Saturday's episode of "Doctor Who" instead of looking both ways at the intersection.

That's the problem, according to research presented in the journal Pediatrics.

"I came in thinking that kids with ADHD probably won't look left and right before they cross, but they did display appropriate curbside behavior," Despina Stavrinos, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Injury Control Research Center, tells WebMD. "The big difference occurred in the outcome of cross."

Researchers looked at 78 children ages 7 to 10. They tested the kids' ability to cross streets using a simulated street scene with cars approaching from the left and right. All the children looked left and right before crossing and waited to cross.

But the 39 children with ADHD had more "close calls" with oncoming traffic and less time to spare when they reached the other side.

Medicating kids -- a popular response to ADHD -- might not help, Stavrinos tells WebMD. A lot of ADHD kids take meds in the morning, but they wear off by the afternoon. They also take "medication holidays" during the summer when they're outside more.

However, Stravinos adds studies of drivers with ADHD have shown that treatment can improve driving performance.

In the meantime, she tells WebMD, "parents may need to delay the age at which they allow children with ADHD to cross the street independently."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.