Crossing Guard For ADHD Kids!

Children with ADHD need more supervision when crossing the street

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) "Hold hands and look both ways before crossing the street", is a common phrase. For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), moms need to insert, "Make sure there are no cars coming before crossing the street."

A recent study found that children with ADHD make riskier decisions in street crossing than children who do not have ADHD.

"Supervise street crossings for all children."

The study’s first author, Despina Stavrinos, PhD, assistant professor in the University of Alabama (UAB) Injury Control Research Center, reports that the children with ADHD in her study did stop and look in both directions before crossing the street. Just because they did a stop and look doesn't mean they were clear to cross the street, though.

At some point in the children's fact gathering and decision-making process, things go poorly, resulting in an environment that isn't always safe for crossing, observes Stavrinos. It appears the children are assessing the environment's safety, but aren't equipped to process the information gathered in a way to make a safe decision.

In the study, the children with ADHD made riskier decisions regarding oncoming traffic and had many more near misses than children without ADHD. They also had less time to spare when reaching the other side of the street.

Executive functioning, a brain process that controls behaviors, seems to be lacking in children with ADHD. Appropriate processing allows the children to recognize speed of the oncoming vehicles and the distance between each cars. Children with ADHD seem developmentally behind their non-ADHD friends.

Stavrinos recommends that parents of children with ADHD may want to delay the time they are allowed to cross the street without adult supervision.

This study included 78 children ages 7 to 10 years old, half with ADHD and half without. The children completed 10 simulated street crossings in UAB’s Youth Safety Laboratory. The simulator depicts a street scene, with oncoming cars approaching from both sides. Children are asked to choose the proper moment to safely cross the virtual street and then step off the curb, implementing the decision. The following actions and decisions were evaluated: (1) the children's ability to properly evaluate the safety of the crossing environment); (2) deciding the optimal time to cross and (3) how safely the children chose to cross.

Children with ADHD chose riskier crossing environments. No significant differences were observed in other aspects of the crossing process. Executive function seems to play a determining role in the relationship between ADHD and crossing safely.

The findings were published in Pediatrics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 20, 2011
Last Updated:
October 2, 2012