Few people would expect to see chewing gum listed as a tool to help fight the characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies done by the Baylor College of Medicine indicate that chewing gum in class and while doing homework can increase scores on standardized tests, and others are touting gum-chewing as an aid in controlling abnormal behavior caused by ADHD.
Students who feel stressed by the pressures of work, peer influence and other factors may act out and cause disruption. This can be especially true in the case of students with ADHD, who will not always have the capacity, patience or support to deal with high-stress situations.
According to research done by the Baylor College of Medicine in early 2009, chewing gum can help reduce stress. The activity of chewing is soothing in its repetition and can help students calm their nerves through a basic, repetitive physical action. This reduced stress can result in fewer behavioral or emotional interruptions from students with ADHD.
People with ADHD often exhibit jittery actions, such as foot tapping, doodling and rocking in their chairs. This secondary activity actually helps students focus their minds by occupying their bodies. If they are not distracted by the urge to move, they are more likely to pay attention to the task at hand.
Chewing gum replaces these jittery actions, helping to increase student focus. While the student's body is unconsciously distracted by the movement of chewing the gum, the mind is free to focus on other tasks without thinking about how much the body wants to move.
Both the Baylor College study and a similar study conducted in England in the early part of the century have indicated that chewing gum provides a number of unconscious physical reactions in a student's body that contribute to increased focus and fewer negative effects of ADHD.
Any physical activity, no matter how small, will increase the heart rate of the body. When heart rate increases, so does respiration, and blood vessels all over the body expand. This is the same physical reaction that gives athletes an edge in competition and activates the inherent fight-or-flight instinct for defensive situations.
On a smaller scale, gum chewing causes a slight increase in heart rate and triggers slightly increased respiration and blood flow, so students are not ready to run a marathon. Instead, the increased respiration and blood flow delivers more oxygen to the brain, aiding students in their focus and concentration.
The study in England also noted that chewing gum can cause the body to release insulin, which activates the area of the brain most commonly associated with memory. This can lead to improved concentration and recall ability, which many students with ADHD lack.
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