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ADHD Symptoms May Suggest a Kinesthetic Learning Style

This year, a number of children at Illinois' National Reading Diagnostics Institute were diagnosed with ADHD.  But close-reading evaluations of these kids revealed that instead of having attention problems, they are actually kinesthetic learners who need to use their large muscles or gross motor activity to learn.  If they are given the chance to learn using this method, their ADHD-like symptoms often diminish.

There are four types of learners: auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic. It's common for learning types to overlap but, generally, auditory learners relate better to verbal material while visual learners are more comfortable with images.  Tactile learners use their sense of touch to absorb new information.  It's easy to see how a kinesthetic learning style can be mistaken for ADHD.  Kinesthetic learners need to use their muscles, move around, and explore for best results.  Drawing figures in the sand is one example of kinesthetic learning.  Kinesthetic learners often find it stressful to stay still, look, and listen for a long period of time; to them, it's like keeping their hands tied, eyes blindfolded, and their mouths covered.  Kinesthetically oriented kids experience similar frustrations when they are made to stay seated on their chairs. When faced with hours at their desk, they tend to get up several times to go to the bathroom or they drop things so they can stand and retrieve them. If they can't do these things, they tend to squirm in their seats, tap their pencils, or shake their legs.  These behaviors are generally not acceptable in the classroom, and teachers are quick to see this behavior as a red flag for ADHD. 

One other problem faced by kinesthetic learners is poor academic achievement.  Among all the four learning styles, kinesthetic learners do poorly in the traditional classroom setting.  Most of the time spent in the classroom involves auditory learning (the teacher talking), visual learning (pictures and displays), and tactile learning (writing on the board).  In primary school, children take part in some kinesthetic activities like songs with action routines and playtime.  However, kids no longer engage in these tasks as they get older.  Not surprisingly, this is when teachers start to complain about ADHD-like behaviors in many of their students.

Unless the child's learning type has been evaluated and identified, tutoring and special reading sessions may not do much to improve your child's situation. If you suspect that your child's ADHD-like behaviors may be the result of a unique learning style, consider getting your child evaluated by an expert in early childhood education or a learning style specialist.