Pediatric Patients With ADHD Show No Dual-Task Deficits

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Older participants had smaller dual-task performance deficits for gait and texting speed in both the ADHD group and the control group.

New data shows pediatric patients with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do not suffer from dual-task performance deficits for functions like walking and texting compared to a healthy control group.

A team, led by Tal Krasovsky, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Haifa Pediatric Rehabilitation Department, Sheba Medical Center, evaluated texting and walking performances between pediatric patients with ADHD and a control group, both indoors and outdoors, while also evaluating the role age and symptom severity play in dual-task performance.

Pediatric Patients With ADHD

Pediatric patients with ADHD have deficits in executive function, as well as motor symptoms including difficulties in gross and fine motor skills and gait stability.

In addition, with the prevalence of cell phones, texting while walking is becoming increasingly common, representing a health risk for people of all ages.

“In modern life people are frequently requested to attend or ignore a myriad of distractors while performing motor tasks such as balancing or walking,” the authors wrote. “Better dual-task performance is related to better EF [9] and thus, it can be expected, that children with ADHD would demonstrate reduced dual-task performance.”

ADHD vs. Control

The study included 19 pediatric patients with ADHD and 30 healthy control participants. Each participant walked across an indoor corridor and an outdoor street both with and without texting on a mobile phone. The participants were aged between 10-18 years and owned a mobile phone for more than 6 months.

The team measured walking and texting performance using inertial measurement units and a custom-made mobile application.

The results show no between-group differences in texting or walking performance across the environments. There was also trends found based on the age of the participant.

Older participants had smaller dual-task performance deficits for gait and texting speed in both the ADHD group and the control group.

In addition, participants in the ADHD who had more severe symptoms of hyperactivity had larger dual task costs for gait outdoors (r = 0.69l P = 0.002).

In addition, individuals with more motor symptoms typed faster under dual-task conditions indoors (r = 0.6; P = 0.007) but were ultimately less accurate (r = -0.60; P = 0.009).

“Children with ADHD do not demonstrate deficits in dual-task performance of a texting and walking task indoors or outdoors,” the authors wrote. “The relationship of age, hyperactivity and motor symptoms with texting and walking performance supports a more personalized approach for examination of dual-task performance in children with ADHD.”

ADHD represents the most common neurodevelopmental disorder for pediatric patients. The disease manifests early in life but can persist throughout adulthood.

Pediatric patients with ADHD often show deficits in executive functions, including inhibition, working memory, and motivation regulation. In addition, 30-50% of pediatric patients with ADHD show moto symptoms that could further impact daily activities.

The study, “Factors associated with texting and walking performance in children with ADHD: the role of age, environment, and symptom severity,” was published online in Gait & Posture.