MONDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of children with
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have one more worry to add
to their list: Kids younger than 10 years old with ADHD may be
unable to cross the street safely on their own.
New research found that while children with ADHD may look as if
they are capable of crossing the street solo -- they do stop and
look both ways before crossing -- they aren't always good at
judging how much time they need to safely cross.
"In our study, the outcome of crossing the street was much worse for kids with ADHD than for their peers without ADHD," said the study's lead author, Despina Stavrinos, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Kids with ADHD left much less time to spare to cross, and there were several close calls," she said.
Results of the study, published online July 25, will appear in
the August print issue of
Unintentional injury is the leading cause of pediatric deaths,
according to background information in the study. And, pedestrian
injuries are a major cause of unintentional injury. About one in
six pedestrian fatalities occurs in children between the ages of 7
and 10, according to the study.
In general, children with ADHD are more prone to injuries,
Stavrinos said. And, the researchers wondered how ADHD might affect
someone's ability to cross the street, because the task requires
processing a lot of information quickly.
To answer that question, the researchers recruited 78 children
between the ages of 7 and 10. Half of them had ADHD. The others
were age- and gender-matched to the children who had ADHD to serve
as a control group. All of the children with ADHD were asked to
forgo their medications for 24 hours prior to the test.
The researchers had the children complete 10 simulated street
crossings using a virtual street environment at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham's Youth Safety Laboratory. The simulator
shows a typical street scene with vehicles approaching from either
Before completing the virtual street crossings, the children had
to walk a 25-foot distance four times, so the researchers could
assess their walking speed. This information was then programmed
into a virtual avatar that was used in the simulations.
While in the simulations, children stood on a wooden block that
simulated the curb. When they thought it was safe to cross, they
stepped down from the curb. At that point, the virtual avatars took
Although kids with ADHD looked as if they were displaying
correct street-crossing behaviors by looking left and right before
stepping into the road, they left themselves shorter gaps to cross
than the control group did, and often had less time to spare when
they got to the other side. And, several kids with ADHD had close
calls with vehicles.
"This study reinforces the notion that kids with ADHD are more at risk in certain situations," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Plus, this study may actually underestimate the extent of the
problem. "If you've got kids in a distraction-free setting, and
they're still showing more risk-related behavior, it may be an
underestimate," he said.
The researchers believe the reason that children with ADHD might
be less adept at street-crossing is a deficit in executive
functioning. Executive functions are tasks the brain controls, such
as timing, inhibition, planning, and execution of planning.
Stavrinos said that parents may get a false sense of security
from seeing that their child looks left and right before crossing,
but they need to spend more time making sure the child leaves
enough time to cross safely. She said this might entail standing
with your child at the curb and asking when he or she thinks it's
safe to cross.
"Parents of children with ADHD may need to be more mindful and concerned that their children are indeed making good decisions with regard to street-crossing behaviors. When they're on medications that reduce their impulsivity, it may reduce the risk, but further studies need to look at ways to ensure safety," said Adesman.
Stavrinos also noted that medications for many children with
ADHD may be wearing off at the end of the school day, just as they
may need to cross the street.
To learn more about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,
U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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