The potential implications of such risk-taking behavior are serious: According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in children. And a growing body of scientific literature suggests that children with behavioral disorders, including ADHD, are more likely to suffer injury than those without the disorder.
So what can be done?
Parents of children with ADHD should increase supervision, said Dr. Steven Meyers, a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University and a Chicago-based clinical psychologist. He said that “over-practicing” of certain safety behaviors is essential, so that they become second-nature in children.
“It’s not an issue of not knowing what the right behaviors are,” he explained. “The impairment is largely in the area of impulsivity, of disregarding what they know.”
Pediatrician Dr. Alanna Levine added that observed crossing from afar can be a good way for parents to gradually gauge if their child is ready to make the appropriate decision, traffic-wise. She cautioned that the children in the University of Alabama at Birmingham study were not taking medication to treat their disorder at the time, adding that researchers are not yet clear as to what the impact of medication on risk-taking behaviors might be.
In the meantime, Stavrinos said that parents should be aware that differences in the executive functioning control center of the brain may mean their children need a street-crossing program that is unique to them.
“The biggest take-home message is that the things we do to teach about crossing safely may not be enough,” she said.