Rhythm and Timing & Your ADHD Child – What’s the Connection?

Rhythm and Timing & Your ADHD Child – What’s the Connection?
— Timing in Child Development by Kristyn Kuhlman and Lawrence J. Schweinhart

When you look at your child what do you see? Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are definitely present. After all, those are the markers of his or her ADHD.

Rhythm and Timing & Your ADHD Child – What’s the Connection?

But look closely, isn’t there something else going on?

How many times has your child asked if you’re ready yet?

How many times have you asked him or her to wait?

You can almost see the gears whizzing in his or her head, urging your child out of his seat again, or compelling the next comment or question.

What if ADHD weren’t so much about “ paying attention” at all. What if ADHD was connected to your child’s internal sense of rhythm and time?

Current research indicates that ADHD brains are actually sped up. What seems to just be a lack of control, or impulsivity, may actually be a response to time that is moving faster than others perceive.

The following research supports this connection between rhythm, timing, and ADHD:

  • Independent investigators have continued to gather evidence indicating that people with ADHD experience time faster than those who are not diagnosed with ADHD. For example, researchers at Gilden Lab at the University of Texas have successfully conducted studies using a metronome rhythm experiment. Both ADHD and non- ADHD participants are asked to “synchronize their drum-tapping with a metronome, and then continue tapping at this pace without the metronome for 3 minutes.”

Normal participants were found to lose the rhythm at 30 beats per minute. ADHD participants lost the beat at 40 beats per minute. According to researchers, this consistent finding indicates “that people with ADHD experience the world on a faster time scale than other people do.”

  • A 2011 study, conducted by the Kennedy Krieger Institute, revealed that areas of the brain responsible for thinking and motor skills in ADHD children were altered. These  areas of the brain are understood to be linked to mental timing. When timing is disrupted, persons with ADHD appear to struggle with focus, clear thinking, and motor skills. The study also determined that programs, such as Interactive Metronome, attend to both thinking and motor skills by systematically adjusting the brain’s sense of time.
  • Dr. Kevin McGrew, a well-respected educational psychologist known as “The Time Doc,” serves as the research and science director for Interactive Metronome.  He is devoted to tracking, collecting, and sharing the evolution of information about what he describes as the “brain clock.”

He notes in his Brain Clock blog: “Our brains measure time constantly. It’s hard to find any complex human behavior where mental timing is not involved. Timing is required to walk, talk, perform complex movements and coordinate information flow across the brain for complex human thought.”

McGrew disseminates an overwhelming body of research indicating that ADHD symptoms are problems of weakened neural connections that affect timing. The brain’s moldability, or plasticity, allows these connections to be strengthened. Timing is improved by enhancing the brain/time synchronicity with a combination movement, and focused attention on rhythmic activity.

As, Dr. McGrew puts it, humans are “time machines.” Brain training zeros in on deficient timing.

The evidence supports fine-tuning the brain clock as an effective way to manage ADHD.

Developing more efficient functional networks in the brain creates room for more effective memory, attention, bodily coordination, mental processing, and self-control.

Retraining your child’s timing helps him or her become more “in sync” with the world.