It’s more and more common these days to hear about kids with attention problems – kids who can’t sit still, kids who can’t focus on their school work, and kids who are too distracted to carry out simple everyday tasks.
We talk a lot here at The Inspired Treehouse about sensory processing needs and how they can impact kids’ ability to attend and function at school and at home. And there are also many children whose attention problems fall into the category of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. But there is one other surprising reason that many children are unable to attend to tasks throughout the day: weak core muscles.
What Does Core Strength Have to Do With Attention?
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? What does core strength have to do with attention? We’re glad you asked! Here are some common things we see in our school-based therapy practice:
1 || When kids don’t have good core muscle endurance, they struggle with sitting in one position for extended periods of time.
So what do they do? They move around. A lot. They shift, they lean, they slump, and they fidget. Not surprisingly, while they’re doing all of these movements, they aren’t able to attend to their teachers or the worksheet they’re supposed to do for homework.
2 || Kids with weak core muscles also have to pay so much attention to maintaining functional upright posture that they don’t have a whole lot of focus left for academic tasks and other tasks of everyday living.
3 || And, because they are working so hard on maintaining good posture, kids often become frustrated and agitated when presented with seemingly simple tasks and activities.
They simply don’t have the stamina to do both.
4 || When kids don’t have “proximal stability” (i.e. a strong core), they often struggle with tasks that require fine motor coordination like handwriting, working with manipulatives for math, or cutting with scissors.
Because these activities are extra challenging for kids with core muscle weakness, they lose interest and attention easily, rush through their work, or give up before even trying.
5 || A weak core means poor posture and having poor posture makes it difficult to visually attend to tasks.
When a child is slumped, leaning, or lying on his desk, he is less likely to be looking at the teacher who is standing at the front of the room and he may struggle with maintaining visual attention to the paper or book on his desk.
6 || Kids with weak core muscles often avoid whole body movement activities (climbing, jumping, team sports) because they are simply too challenging.
Therefore, these kids are less likely to get the sensory input they need from movement activities that can help them regulate their behavior and attend.
While there is a whole slew of reasons that a child may be demonstrating attention problems, we think that taking a closer look at core strength is often a smart place to start!
Do you see any of these or other signs of core muscle weakness in your kids or the kids you work with? Share them with us in the comments below!
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I love this idea and I’m anticipating using this guide in my practice. I have a few questions:
are these strategies evidence-based?
how can I measure progress to show parents and teachers that these activities are working?
can I reprint the cards to provide educational materials to parents and teachers?
thank you for all the great information!
Suzanne Hart says
I have 4 children and would love to get the core strengthening handbook.
I think you guys rock.
Another important one, low tone and the resultant slumping can cause the primitive brain to tell your body to move, as in fight-flight. This results in movement and inattention and is a major cause.
Kris Dadant says
There is another cause for not being able to attend in class. Hypervigilance is a result of trauma. this includes a high percentage of foster children and children living in poverty. These children are frequently misdiagnosed and put on medication. However, medication will not help.
I have read through other blogs, but they are bloated and more confusing than your post. I hope you continue to have such quality posts to share with everyone! I believe a lot of people will be surprised to read this article!
Diane Berlin says
Great article. Will share it with parents and other educators. Thanks for writing it.
I’d live to receive a set of exercise to practice in the morning with my 9 year old son
Thank you in advance
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