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ADD symptoms are relived by time in nature!

Wow! Sometimes a news item is so compelling that it surprises and shocks me with its simple truth. How's this headline: "ADD symptoms in children are releived after spending time in nature. The greener the setting, the more the relief."

The dramatic results of a study by University of Illinois researchers Andrea Faber Taylor, Frances Kuo and William Sullivan suggest an alternative way to relieve ADD symptoms that has virtually no side effects or costs.

the researchers found that the ability to concentrate, complete tasks and follow directions improves dramatically after play in green, natural settings. The greener the setting, the more the relief. Greenery in a child's everyday environment -- even views of green through a window -- reduces ADD symptoms. While outdoor activities in general help, settings with trees and grass are the most beneficial. For ADD kids (and adults ;-) the simple message "Go out and play" is significant.

The ability to deliberately pay attention, as when working or studying, draws on what scientists call "directed attention." Like a mental msucle, directed attention becomes fatigued with exertion. To refresh and renew this mental muscle, the use of "involuntary attention" is effective.

Involuntary attention is effortless attention. Simply noticing the sights, sounds and scents of the environment exemplifies it. Studies of adults have shown that time spent in nature uses involuntary attention especially effectively. Directed attention rests, and ability to concentrate is renewed.

The survey collected information on "green" and "non-green" activities along with the results of functioning after each activity. Green activiies included camping, fishing and playiing soccer. Not-green activities included watching TV, playing video games, and doing homeworkk. Activities that can occur in green and paved settings, including playiing outside and in-line skating, were classified as ambiguous. RESULTS: Compared to the aftereffects of play in paved outdoor or indoor areas, activities in natural, green settings were far more likely to leave ADD children better able to focus, concentrate and pay attention. Activities that left ADD children in worse shape were far more likely to occur indoors or outdoors in spaces devoid of greenery. These findings point compellingly to using outdoor play in green settings to help ADD kids function better.

taylor, Kuo, Sullivan and many other scientists have found that natural settings have a measurably positive effect on people. Even so, the strong results of this survey surprised them.

"We knew from our own studies and those of othr scientists that in general, green is good. For ADD kids, however, green is great," said Kuo, assistant professor and co-director of the Human-Environment Research Laboratory a the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Prior studies by Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan have found that green outdoor spaces may foster creative play, a form of play that is expecially valuable for children's development. Green spaces also seem to improve children's access to adult interaction.

"Planting and caring for green space is important. Near home, in particular, nature can be used to help people." Clanting and caring for trees, shrubs and grasses near home takes a modest investment of time, money and energy. But few things may cost less and yeild more, especially for kids with ADD.

Ideas for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers

  • Before beginning activities that demand attention, such as school or homework, have children play outside in a green yard or park, or enjoy time together in such a place. It may leave them better able to concentrate on upcoming tasks.
  • Observe which activities and settings seem to restore or improve children's ability to pay attention.
  • Advocate recess in green schoolyards. it may help all children refresh their ability to concentrate.
  • Value and care for the trees and vegetation in your community. Caring for trees means caring for people.

This information is condensed from "Coping With ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings" Environment and Behavior, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan 2001), pp 54-77. A Faber Taylor, F.E. Kuo, W.C. Sullivan. Copyright 2001, Sage Publications.

The Human-Environmetn Research Lab of the U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a multidisciplinary rsearcy laboratory dedicated to studying the relationships between people and the environments they inhabit. www.herl.uiuc.edo.

For more articles about NATURE & KIDS

Young Birders Get Serious About Birding Fun
The Squirrel Family 0 Backyard Nature Safari
Hamsters are rodents and cuddly pets
Kids Learning Links
Buddy's Diner (for the birds)
Bird Profiles for Young Naturalists