Teaching children how to cross streets safely by themselves is one of the basic tasks of responsible parenthood. Children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), however, are at greater risk of injury when crossing the street independently—so parents whose children have ADHD may want to give them extra practice, or even delay when they allow their children to cross streets by themselves.
That’s the finding from research published recently in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal, Pediatrics, “Mediating Factors Associated with Pedestrian Injury in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.”
The study looked at 78 children, aged 7 to 10 years old. Of these, 39 were diagnosed with ADHD. The children stopped taking their ADHD medication 24 hours before participating in the study. They completed 10 simulated street crossings in a virtual environment lab, with an avatar that popped onto the screen as soon as the child stepped off the fake wooden “curb” in the lab. Although the children with ADHD stopped at the simulated intersection and looked both ways at the passing traffic, they chose to cross when there were smaller gaps between cars and had a shorter time to spare to reach the other end of the crosswalk.
“The important message for parents is that just because your child displays correct curb- side behaviors doesn’t mean that he’ll be able to cross a street by himself,” said Despina Stavrinos, Ph.D, lead author of the study, and assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Injury Control Research Center. “Executive function-- timing ability, managing impulsivity, planning—is a key player.”
The difficulties children with ADHD have in processing information may lead them to make poor decisions about when it’s actually safe to cross a street.
Parents should recognize that even if their child with ADHD looks left and right when crossing, that’s not enough evidence that the child can safely cross the street on their own, Dr. Stavrinos said. Parents can test whether their child is ready by standing on a curb with their child and asking him to watch the oncoming traffic and say (not actually cross) when they would cross the street safely. Parents might find that their child’s decision to cross may be riskier than they might have thought.
. “The rules are not one size fits all when it comes to pedestrian safety and a child’s readiness, especially when a child has ADHD,” Dr. Stavrinos said.
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