Before completing the virtual street crossings, the children had to walk a 25-foot distance four times, so the researchers could assess their walking speed. This information was then programmed into a virtual avatar that was used in the simulations.
While in the simulations, children stood on a wooden block that simulated the curb. When they thought it was safe to cross, they stepped down from the curb. At that point, the virtual avatars took over.
Although kids with ADHD looked as if they were displaying correct street-crossing behaviors by looking left and right before stepping into the road, they left themselves shorter gaps to cross than the control group did, and often had less time to spare when they got to the other side. And, several kids with ADHD had close calls with vehicles.
"This study reinforces the notion that kids with ADHD are more at risk in certain situations," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Plus, this study may actually underestimate the extent of the problem. "If you've got kids in a distraction-free setting, and they're still showing more risk-related behavior, it may be an underestimate," he said.
The researchers believe the reason that children with ADHD might be less adept at street-crossing is a deficit in executive functioning. Executive functions are tasks the brain controls, such as timing, inhibition, planning, and execution of planning.
Stavrinos said that parents may get a false sense of security from seeing that their child looks left and right before crossing, but they need to spend more time making sure the child leaves enough time to cross safely. She said this might enta
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