As parents we are aware of the positive impact and clear benefits of adding exercise and carefully chosen extracurricular activities to our children’s schedules. Now the latest research extends the added benefits of play and exercise especially to children with ADHD. These studies clearly demonstrate that exercise can stimulate brain activity in areas often underdeveloped in children with ADHD. In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, released in 2008, John Ratey presented a detailed exploration of the connection between exercise and the brain’s performance. The results show how even moderate exercise can supercharge the brain, sharpening thinking abilities, improving attention, improving executive function, enhancing memory, and calming stress.
After reading these amazing news… “What activities can be beneficial for a child who has ADHD?”
I wish I could come up with an ‘easy and accurate’ blanket answer to that question. Instead, I find myself offering a list of points to review in the process of choosing the best fit for each child. I invite you to mindfully consider the following checklist as you select activities for your child. Don’t forget to include your child in the selection process– you might be amazed at their insight!
1. Notice (and try not to judge). Does your child have trouble interpreting other children’s body language or is she a natural at communicating and connecting? Is she too impulsive, or hyperactive to play? Is he shy and finds it difficult to join a group? How are his motor skills or hand-eye coordination? Can she understand and follow rules involved in team sports? What is easy for her? What does he excel at? Is she tired late in the afternoon?
2. Am I looking for…
- activities that boost confidence and self esteem? Some children who have ADHD feel ‘different’ or ‘less than’ while at school. After school activities may offer an environment that supports their personal growth and promotes self-awareness by focusing on ‘what they are ‘good’ at.
- a creative outlet? Many children who have ADHD excel in the creative arts and have little opportunity to participate in these activities. Painting and drama provide the opportunity for children to express themselves creatively without too many rules. Music stimulates both sides of the brain and some students find it very relaxing. Concentrating on an enjoyable task can also have a positive impact on their self esteem.
- team or group activities? These can offer a non threatening way for some children to improve their social skills. If your child has difficulties with social behavior try a group activity where they do not necessarily participate as a team.
NOTE: Although I previously mentioned that there is no sport or activity that can be singled out as being ‘most’ beneficial for a child who has ADHD, I need to mention two activities that often offer a gain in focus, attention and organization to most children– martial arts and yoga. Some of my college student clients continue these two activities well into their adulthood because of the focusing and grounding results.
3. Please schedule a call or a visit to learn about the teachers/coaches before you sign up. Can you and your child observe a class? Do the teachers have a strengths based approach that will allow your child to feel good about participating? How do the teachers handle behavioral interruptions? How will the students be grouped- by age or skill level?
Congratulations on choosing an activity for your child! Please note that the awareness process continues. Do you notice improved attention and reduced ADHD symptoms? Is your child attending the activities and sharing with you their learnings and successes?
Your child might be impacted by ADHD and that is only a small part of who she is! Continue giving her the space to find her strengths and offer unconditional support and love in the process. Finally, keep in mind the importance of quality down time to recharge!