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ADHD Crawling Exercise

By Jake Wayne ; Updated August 14, 2017

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affects 3 percent to 5 percent of the population, reports Attention Deficit resource ADDitude magazine. Though research still hasn't determined the exact cause or best treatment, Purdue professor Nancy O'Dell theorizes that crawling therapy can help some cases.

Crawling as a Milestone

Most babies crawl for several months before walking, reports baby development handbook "Baby 411." However, authors Ari Brown and Denise Fields also write that some babies skip crawling and move from sitting and scooting directly to walking. According to O'Dell, skipping crawling can create reflexes that produce ADHD-like symptoms.

Crawling Reflex

According to O'Dell, the symmetric tonic neck reflex is a normal response in infants that pushes the body into a crawl position: arms extended, knees bent and head up to look ahead. This reflex diminishes as babies mature. However, O'Dell's theory is based on the idea that this reflex is vital to developing the ability to sit still and pay attention. Without it, the body postures called for in class become difficult and fatiguing for students. The result is behaviors identical to ADHD.

Different Kinds

According to Daniel Amen in "Healing ADD," different types of ADD and ADHD call for different best practices. Neurochemical ADHD doesn't respond to crawling therapy, but if the ADHD is reflexive and physiological, it can be an effective adjunct to treatment. Administering stimulants, such as the caffeine in a can of soda, can work as a field test to find which kind of ADHD your child has. Neurochemical ADHD symptoms often subside in the presence of caffeine. ADHD symptoms from other causes get worse.

Crawling Therapy

O'Neil's program consists of learning how to crawl for 15 minutes per session, in weekly sessions for several months. The idea is to train in the reflexes the body failed to develop while crawling as an infant. O'Neil reports theoretical support for this program. However, as of 2010 the treatment has not undergone enough testing for empirical results.


Families are often eager to find new treatments for ADHD, especially treatments that don't include medication. According to Dr. Jerry Rodgers, an expert in treating ADHD with clinical and lifestyle methods, crawling treatment has no scientific or experimental support but is supported by some anecdotal evidence.

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