I've been poring through the research on ADHD lately. I find it interesting that Barkley's theory about ADHD involves the premise that ADHD is more about a deficit in self-control due to inability to inhibit impulses than a deficit of attention. One thing he's found is that kids with ADHD are less likely to use self-talk to self-regulate their behavior. This recent study is even more intriguing in this light.
All of the recent emphasis on the importance of self-talk just adds more credibility to Vygotsky's theory and his emphasis on private speech (a major source of contention between him and Piaget). Self-regulation doesn't happen automatically. Rather, it occurs first in social interactions, then eventually it becomes internalized; hence the importance of play for Vygotsky. Vygotsky saw play as a means whereby children can learn to control their behavior to a greater extent than normally possible through the taking on of a particular role in a game. For instance, kids can stand still for much longer periods of time while pretending to be guards at a castle than if they are merely told to stand still for as long as they can. I have always thought that play opens the door to allowing us to attempt things just beyond our reach. Now we are finding out that play is an essential part of learning self-regulation in young children. Sadly, many of our preschools are becoming more academic and less focused on playing games involving make-believe and self-control. When was the last time you saw a group of preschoolers playing Red Light Green Light 123? Duck Duck Goose? Mother May I? All of these games teach kids impulse control, and I would argue that these games are even more necessary than teaching preschoolers how to write and read.