WASHINGTON -- Victor Kelly, 16, defensive end with the Northwestern High School Wildcats in suburban Hyattsville, Md., bench-presses 300 pounds, squats 430 and power-cleans about 275.
But these days, it's all he can do to keep his mind on the weights.
Talking in class.
People who deal with children call it something else -- spring fever. And medical experts say it is a real physiological condition that comes with warm weather, leading to an increase in unexcused absences, tardies, suspensions and expulsions.
Frantic parents at this time of year often seek out the experts to see whether something is really wrong with their children.
''They're antsy, real antsy,'' said Tasha McMillan, a Washington kindergarten teacher. ''The weather has turned nice, and they want to get outside. They can't concentrate on what's going on in the classroom. They can't focus. They can't think. They want to get outside and run.''
Unfortunately, spring fever arrives at one of the busiest times in the school year, when teachers are trying to prepare students to take standardized tests and finish other work required before school is out for the summer.
''Teachers are very aware of what happens to children with the coming of nice weather ... and see it as a new kind of challenge, especially with the testing and completion of course work and preparations for the end of the school year,'' said Sylvia Seidel, director of teacher education initiatives for the National Education Association.
''Spring weather is very seductive,'' she said, ''but teachers are also very acutely aware that they can't stop or slow down the academic process because of spring fever. We've got to modify the way we teach to accommodate what the children are thinking of and longing to do.''
That would be welcomed by the mother of Dustin Schade, 10, in suburban Prince William County, Va. ''My son is not as focused lately. He wants to rush through his homework quicker and not pay as close attention to detail as he normally does,'' Cynthia Schade said.
The behavioral changes are linked to increases in adrenaline, endorphins and certain pain-inhibiting neurotransmitters whose levels surge as people become more active in warmer weather, said pediatric neuropsychologist Ronald Federici, of Fairfax, Va. Adults learn to curb the desire to run outdoors. But for children, who haven't been sufficiently indoctrinated into the world of work, the lure of the outdoors is hard to resist.
''When kids are outside and there is more light and more sunshine and more activity, the adrenaline pumps,'' Federici said. ''Where there is adrenaline, there is impulsivity, disinhibition, and sometimes aggressive outbursts. Children are going basically from a rested state in winter to a movement, or flight, state. They feel invigorated and energized. It changes the carbon dioxide in their blood flow and there is more oxygenation. Their heart rate goes up. It's not a surprise that there is more of a tendency toward violence and acting out.''
That leads many parents to turn to experts. Washington-area pediatricians and psychologists say they're flooded with questions about attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities.
''Children are restless and ready to break out,'' said Federici, who said his telephones were ringing off the hook last week. ''In the springtime we get more referrals for learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder than any other time of the year.''
This can sometimes lead to inappropriate diagnoses that sometimes confuse spring fever symptoms with more long-term conditions caused by hyperactivity, said pediatrician William Fried, network medical director for Aetna US Healthcare. And symptoms may worse for children with such conditions as attention deficit disorder.
Parents can make adjustments to accommodate their children's increased energy level and distractibility, said Mark Stein, chairman of the psychology department at Children's National Medical Center and a professor at George Washington University.
He recommended increasing children's physical activity, regulating their bedtimes, and breaking up homework and chore times to avoid boredom.
For children who find weekday studying particularly difficult, set up special times on weekends to focus on homework, and consider hiring a tutor or taking children to an alternate location, such as a library, to study.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.