I believe barometric pressure affects behavior in children and adults. With the recent wave of polar vortex weather, we have seen a huge increase in behavioral issues and a huge variance in barometric pressure. If you will go to http://www.wunderground.com/history and put in your zip code and then put in the previous month, you will be able to see the history of your own barometric pressure for your city.
Here is a picture of the barometric pressure for Olathe, Kansas (a school district I work with quite frequently).
This is the graph for the month of February. You can see how the barometric pressure in one month’s time has huge variances. How does this relate to behavior? Thomas Schory has conducted research finding a connection between barometric pressure and patients with psychiatric conditions. Here is an interesting article citing Schory http://www.ehow.com/facts_6612124_barometric-pressure-behavior.html. Note the article section discussing the use of corporal punishment being higher on abnormal pressure days.
One of my principal friends in Lawton, Oklahoma was so proud of her statistics. She had gone all year with zero office discipline referrals. On April 21 at 1:45 in the afternoon, three students were sent to her office from different classrooms. All three children had out of the ordinary behavior. I met with her the next day. We pulled up the barometric pressure for Lawton, Oklahoma looking at hour by hour of the day before. At 1:30 that afternoon, the barometric pressure had taken a huge nose dive.
So, what can you do if you are a principal, educator, parent or therapist working with children on a daily basis? Watch the barometric pressure. When you see a huge change in the barometric pressure, turn everything in your classroom or home into a choice. Here are some samples of equal choices:
- Do you want to write with the green pencil or the purple pencil?
- Do you want to sit in the red chair or the blue chair?
- Would you like to walk down the hallway beside me or in front of me?
- Here are 50 math problems, you can only do half of them. You can choose the half you do.
- You can brush your teeth with the green toothbrush or the yellow toothbrush (provided they are both theirs )
- Do you want to wear your green pajamas or your blue pajamas?
It is so easy to turn anything into a choice. Why are choices important? Choices keep the synapses firing in the front part of the brain where the child is thinking. We want to keep the child thinking so they do not slip down into the lizard brain where they are just reacting. Decision making is enacted in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. When we offer the student equal choices rather than a threat, we can keep the synapses firing in the prefrontal cortex. If we throw out a threat like, “Do this, or lose your recess. Do this or go to the office.”, the student will immediately go to lizard brain. Lizard brain is the brain stem which means the student is reacting rather than thinking.
When the barometric pressure is out of the normal range, it can affect how you feel. How you feel affects how you react to choices and threats. Here is an article on barometric pressure and moods http://www.catalogs.com/info/health/barometric-pressure-affect-mood.html. Hence, it makes sense to offer choices to students on as much as possible when the barometric pressure is changing to keep them from reacting to the way they feel about the barometric pressure effects on their body.
We have tried this with students and had great results. We tried it with an adult who had autism, intellectual disabilities, bipolar condition, obsessive compulsive disorder and mild cerebral palsy. When offered numerous choices on wacky barometric pressure days he would be a little slower in response; however, he would not lock down and refuse to go to work. Previous to the addition of choices, he would choose to stay in bed and not eat or take his medication when given ultimatums by his staff.
So, watch the barometric pressure and start turning everything in your classroom, school, or home into a choice when the barometric pressure shoots up or down and you’ll be surprised in the changes it will make for you and your students or children.