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Sitting Still in School

Writing my last post about back-to-school ADHD resolutions got me thinking about some of the different ways my symptoms showed up in classroom environments.

I didn’t talk about hyperactive symptoms as much as inattentive symptoms in my last post, but hyperactive symptoms were definitely in the mix.

After all, what is the one thing you have to do almost all day at school? Sit still. For ADHDers, who often think better – not to mention feel better – with physical movement, being told to sit in place and listen all day isn’t really our idea of a fun time.

Looks inviting, right?

The stereotype of hyperactive ADHDers in school is of a little boy running around the classroom. To be fair, I did tend to get in trouble for not staying in my seat when I was in elementary school, but my aversion to sitting still remained a problem for me as I got older.

In high school, and even more so in college with its long lectures, having to sit in one place and listen made me feel trapped and de-energized. It felt like imposing unnecessary boredom on myself, and for ADHDers boredom tends to kill focus. I think I would have concentrated better and listened to lectures more thoroughly if I had been able to move around more freely.

In this way, hyperactive symptoms and inattentive symptoms kind of blended together, at least in my academic experience. The feeling of having to sit still in one place went hand-in-hand with the feeling of trying to pay attention to someone talking on and on.

I was probably one of the more fidgety students in class. Sometimes I would get up and go get a drink of water just to have an excuse to move. But in general, my hyperactivity was toned down, as tends to happens in adulthood. I wasn’t a little boy getting up out of my seat over and over, but I was a young adult ADHDer who was internally having trouble coping with the lack of stimulation of a classroom setting.

I think there are indications that we’re starting to shift progress away from the idea that classrooms are only places where you sit still. I want to see a lot more of this, though, and there’s still a big cultural change that has to happen.

Things like standing desks, exercise ball chairs, interactive teaching styles, and simply creating an environment where everyone knows it’s OK to stand up during class, can all help. There’s progress to be made in pretty much every level of school, because hyperactive symptoms tend to stick around from the beginning of elementary school into the halls of higher education – even if the way they express themselves changes.

Image: Flickr/Chris

Sitting Still in School

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2019). Sitting Still in School. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Aug 2019
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