Is it ADHD, Or Is My Child Just Too Hot?Jason Siddall
According to Health 24, South Africa has one of the highest prescription rates for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication in the world – higher even than the USA.
Lack of focus, frequent mistakes, difficulty following instructions, concentration problems and forgetfulness. These are some of the hallmarks of ADHD in children.
However, they are also symptoms of a child doing their best in a classroom that is simply too hot.
South Africa is not known for its sensible climate. Summers can see temperatures soaring into the high 30s by mid-morning, often accompanied by stifling humidity levels.
How do these hot temperatures affect our children in a classroom environment?
How Hot Classrooms Affect Students
Insufficient ventilation, humidity, and temperature control have a direct impact on the behaviour of children in school.
Warmer temperatures steadily decrease memory and cognitive ability and alter the moods of learners. As the classroom gets warmer, children get sleepy, more irritable, and have trouble listening and concentrating.
However, it’s not just the behaviour of children that suffers.
A study conducted by Berkeley Lab reveals how “reading speed, reading comprehension, and multiplication performance of school children are poorer with temperatures of 27 – 30°C relative to 20°C.”
A classroom that is too hot – or too cold – affects children’s learning ability directly.
One study by the University of Scranton showed that optimum learning temperature lies between 20 – 22°C. This is when students achieved an average score of 90 percent. However, at a chilly 16°C, these scores dropped to around 76 percent. At the opposite end of the spectrum (and possibly more applicable to our South African readers) a classroom temperature over 27°C saw a drop from 90 percent to around 72 percent for test scores. (Source)
This on its own is a big concern.
Lower Income Equals Lower Scores
There’s more, however. The studies referenced above make mention of the fact that low-income families will feel the heat – literally – more than middle or higher-income groups.
“Hotter countries tend to be poorer. Hotter countries also tend to score lower on academic achievement measurements. Goodman and his fellow researchers examined the test scores of millions of American high school students to determine whether heat had an impact on their academic achievement.
“The findings were clear. Students scored lower when they had just experienced a hot school year than when they had just experienced a cool school year. Low-income and minority students were impacted by heat more than others, and air conditioning in schools all but completely eliminated the impact of heat.”
So says Associate Professor Joshua Goodman of Harvard Kennedy School in his article on cumulative heat exposure on cognitive skills development. (Source)
If these studies are to be believed, then it’s clear that at least some of the medication being doled out to children for ADHD should not be prescribed at all. It is doing little to solve the problem.
Can parents and school administrators shift their focus? Perhaps the children are simply not coping well because of the discomfort they are enduring throughout their school day.
Air-conditioning the Classroom is a Simple Solution
Ventilation, humidity control and temperature are critical to our children’s academic performance. The logical solution, then, is a robust air conditioner.
A comfortable working environment is as important to our child’s final marks as a good night’s sleep. And as vital as a healthy diet.
There is, unfortunately, no shortcut.
We all know that we can focus better when we are comfortable. The same is true for our young ones. When we are sweating in an airless, muggy room, our brains are focused more on telling us to do something about this distress than on our algebra formulae.
Of course, after midday and a tummy full of food, a sweltering classroom is entirely unlikely to be a place buzzing with energy and excitement.
Besides offering an immediate solution to hot, sticky weather, an aircon in a classroom directly benefits children who suffer from allergies or asthma. Clean, cool, filtered air is – well – a breath of fresh air. Especially for these youngsters trying to focus, free from pollen, pollution and other allergens.
Before reaching for the Ritalin after a disappointing report from your child’s teacher, why not explore the classroom environment. Perhaps there is a better way to assist your child to do their best. We’re sure that even those children who are suffering from ADHD will thank you for it.
Contact Toshiba now and let us provide a practical, long-term solution.