RESEARCH SUMMARY DETAIL

Nature Improves Concentration for Children with ADHD

Author's Title: Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park
Author(s) Name: Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances E. Kuo
Year of Publication: 2008
Search Related Keywords: Ability/Disability  Child  Garden  Neighborhood  Outdoor Space  Park and Green Space/Landscape  Personal/Individual Needs and Factors  Psychological  School/Educational Facility 

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Design Issue
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This study assessed the effects of outdoor environments (i.e., park, neighborhood, downtown) on concentration in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


  • Previous research suggests the physical environment affects the attention levels of the general population.
  • Understanding environment effects on attention in children with ADHD may lead to an understanding of the cause and improvements in treatment of ADHD.
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Design Criteria
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Author Identified:
  • Expose children with ADHD to nature to improve concentration levels.
  • Consider the following features in school environments to improve concentration among children with ADHD:
    • Include accessible natural amenities (e.g., trees, flowers, open lawn, small bushes) in outdoor areas.
    • Include natural amenities (e.g., aquariums, terrariums, indoor plants) in quiet spaces indoors.
    • Include windows with views to nature in classrooms.

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Key Concepts
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  • Children with ADHD showed better concentration after walking through a city park than after walking through a residential neighborhood or downtown setting.
  • Concentration improvements after walking through the city park were similar to the peak-concentration improvements associated with two common ADHD medications (Swanson, Wigal, & Wigal, 2004).
  • Children rated experiences in the park more positively (i.e., more fun, more relaxing) than the neighborhood or downtown settings.
  • Findings were supported by the Attention Restoration theory (ART) which predicts effortful activities requiring voluntary attention may fatigue a person’s ability to concentrate, while effortless activities that produce inherent involuntary attention (e.g., experiencing nature) may restore a person’s concentrations level (James, 1962; Kaplan, 1995).
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Research Method
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  • Children (17, 7 to 12 years of age; mean 9.23 years of age) professionally diagnosed with ADHD were recruited through newspaper advertisements, online newsletters, and flyers.
  • After solving a puzzle to create attention fatigue, subjects individually completed 20-minute guided walks through three environments (city park, residential neighborhood, downtown) of similar terrain, noise, and social density levels. Guided walks were conducted in a random order one week apart from each other at similar times of the day. Children had not received daily medication before walks.
  • Upon completion of each walk, the children rated their experience (e.g., relaxing, interesting, boring) and completed the Digit Span Backwards (DSB) concentration test in which the children listened to a sequence of numbers two to eight digits long and repeated the sequence aloud in the reverse order. The Stroop Color-Word Test, Symbol Digit Modalities, and Vigilance Task of the Gordon Diagnostic System Model 111-R were also administered.
  • subjects’ parents completed surveys describing their child’s diagnosis and medications.
  • descriptive statistics, ANOVA, t-tests, and Cohen’s d were used to analyze the data.
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Limitations
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  • Findings from the Stroop Color-Word Test, Symbol Digit Modalities, and Vigilance Task of the Gordon Diagnostic System Model 111-R were not significant and were not further analyzed.
  • The small sample size may limit the generalizability of the findings.
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Commentary
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While the research method states that all children were professionally diagnosed with ADHD, parent surveys indicated that six children were diagnosed with ADD and ten children were diagnosed with ADHD. A review of literature on Attention Restoration theory (ART) was included. Further research on the relationship between attention deficits and attention fatigue, the longevity of the effects of nature on attention, the ability of nature to reduce impulsivity, and the ability for nature to improve academic performance was recommended.



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Adapted From
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Author(s): Andrea Faber Taylor, research scientist, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and Frances E. Kuo, associate professor; Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Article Title: Children with Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park
Publisher: Sage Publications
Publication: Journal of Attention Disorders
Publication Type: Refereed Journal
Date of Publication: 2008
ISSN: 1087-0547
Volume: 0
Issue: August
Pages: 1-8