Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic problem that results in poor concentration and control of impulses. The DSM-5 outlines three general categories of symptoms that are characteristic of this condition; hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. It can affect a child’s learning and social skills, and can have an impact on family functioning. It’s estimated one in 20 children in Australia have ADHD, making this the most commonly diagnosed psycho-social disorder in childhood. The exact causes of ADHD are unknown, but it tends to run in families, so genes play some part. There are a number of different approaches to ADHD treatment:

Although medication can be an effective form of ADHD treatment, they can often bring with them various unwanted side effects. Non-pharmacological ADHD treatment is often safer and more sustainable, often being a good place to start after getting a diagnosis. For this reason, parents, as well as teachers & therapists, working with ADHD-diagnosed children were wanted for alternative therapy for the condition. This prompted a 6-week ADHD research project which studied the effects of double finger labyrinth use on 135 diagnosed children, between the ages of 7-17. The research question concerned whether children diagnosed with hyperactivity, who use a double finger labyrinth (to develop mental relaxation brought on by Brain Synchrony) for a specified amount of time, will show a reduction in the behavioral symptoms associated with this condition (hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention) over ADHD-diagnosed children who engage in a similar activity for the same amount of time.

Double Finger Labyrinth – ADHD Treatment Background 

Over the past 30 years, compelling anecdotal reports have been made from teachers introducing children to the double finger labyrinth design (a mirror-image, inlaid labyrinth design involving the use of both hands simultaneously moving in opposite directions.) Reportedly following recess periods, children using the tool appeared to calm down quickly which led to better attention span, mental focus and greater impulse control. It has been suggested previously that the labyrinth design stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously, thereby pairing reasoning, problem solving and language skills (left hemisphere) with intuition and creativity (right hemisphere). This effect, known as Brain Synchrony, creates a preponderance of alpha and theta brainwave states, leading to enhanced mental relaxation (Fehmi & Fritz, 1980; Hutchison, 1994; Harris, 2002).

Discussions with Occupational & Physical Therapists strongly indicate that simultaneously engaging both sides of the brain (by moving limbs from both sides of the body simultaneously, creating Brain Synchrony) can lead to functional brain pathways in one hemisphere, finding ways to take over the workload of weak or dysfunctional pathways in the same or opposite hemisphere. Furthermore, mental relaxation (brought on by Brain Synchrony) is one of the keys to children developing and demonstrating greater adaptive responses and choices to various environmental stimuli. This ability is known as Sensory Integration (Ayres, 1979). These various findings prompted a national research study to determine if the reported benefits of the finger labyrinth could be validated scientifically.

Research Overview

The children were instructed to play with either a double finger labyrinth or in a sand tray at home, in school or in a therapist’s office for 4 weeks. The labyrinth and sand tray combination were chosen for the study as they both have a light sandy tactile feeling when used. The researchers wanted to be able to rule out this tactile stimuli as a variable for behavior change.

The study involved each child being observed playing exclusively with either the labyrinth or sand tray for 5 minutes at a time simultaneously, 3-5 times per week for a 4-week period. After 4 weeks, the labyrinth or sand tray was discontinued.

A symptom rating scale known as the ADHD-SRS was used to measure the child’s behavior at baseline, at the conclusion of the 4 week intervention and lastly at the completion of the 6th week (i.e. two weeks after the intervention ceased). The scale which is norm referenced, contains 56 items, including two subscales, hyperactivity and inattention. It provides a thorough and complete assessment of ADHD symptoms based on the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual-4th edition criteria. The parent/rater was instructed to fill out the scale prior to the introduction of the intuipath or the sand tray and was then instructed to fill out the scale both at the end of the four week playing phase and the six week mark. 

Results Summary 

Overall the results indicated that children and adolescents with ADHD experience behavioral benefits over time when moving both hands simultaneously through either a finger labyrinth or sand tray, however, the finger labyrinth had a greater reduction in ADHD symptoms than the sand tray groups after 4 weeks.

If you’re interested in purchasing a finger labyrinth for yourself or your child, take a look at our classical seven circuit labyrinth, the oldest labyrinth design to exist! This finger labyrinth is carved out of white acrylic, which can easily be wiped clean and kept hygienic. Read these instructions to learn how to use your labyrinth and get the most out of it! 

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