Some children, especially those who have ADHD, may benefit from listening to music while studying. Music can aid children with the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in finishing their school work and it's even better than medication, says a new study.
The study began with the researchers wanting to know what effect common distractions like music and video have on children diagnosed with ADHD.
"If a kid says he can watch TV and focus, it's just not true. With television, we found out what we needed to know. But with music we actually discovered, in most cases, it didn't really affect the children," said William E. Pelham Jr from FIU Center for Children and Families and lead author of the study in a statement.
The study included boys who were either on ADHD medications or weren't taking any medications for the condition. A separate control group had boys who weren't diagnosed with ADHD. All participants could choose the kind of music they wanted to listen. The radio stations selected for the study had contemporary music including rock and rap.
Researchers found that while music may be a distraction for few children, it may help others concentrate better.
"And in some cases we found listening to music helped the kids with ADHD to complete their work. Actually for this subgroup, the effect of music on them was nearly as effective as medication," Pelham noted.
Music has also been found to be effective in promoting pro-social behavior in teenage boys who have learning difficulties and poor social skills.
"Rather than just assuming it's better for a child with ADHD to do their homework in complete silence, it may help their concentration to let them listen to music," added Pelham.
"If parents want to know if listening to music will help their child's performance in school, they should try it. In psychology, we have what we call single-subject-design studies. Basically, it's trial and error. If a child's performance improves after trying the music for a period of time, then that's a pretty good indicator that the child falls into the subgroup of children that benefit from music," said Pelham.
Famous musicians like Wolfang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and John Lennon displayed signs of ADHD, according to an article published in the Pediatrics and Child Health. Mozart also displayed signs of another disorder called the Tourette's syndrome.
Should Students with ADHD Listen to Music While Doing Homework?
I get asked a lot about whether students with ADHD should listen to music when doing homework. The answer is… it depends!
Obviously, students with ADHD are prone to auditory distraction. They hear something, like a dog barking, and then they want to focus on that rather than the task at hand.
Music can block out these distractions as long as the music is not distracting itself. So, lyrics can be a problem. You think about the words and not your math assignment. But not all instrumental music is the same.
Avoid songs that include lots of changes and contrasts. It’s much better to have smooth, repetitive melodies without sharp turns in tempo or surges in volume. Experiment to find music that works.
Other ways to block auditory distractions are nature sounds, like rainfall, or just plain old white noise. Boring, but effective.
Check out “The Mind Matters Show” for more learning tips!
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Dr. Craig Pohlman
Craig is a learning expert who has helped thousands of struggling students in his psychology career. He’s written extensively about learning issues, including the book How Can My Kid Succeed in School? He has three sons, so he has been up close and personal with things like cramming for tests, scrambling to finish homework, shuttling kids to sports practices, stuffing backpacks, etc. Follow him on Twitter - @DrCraigPohlman