Individual Sports Are Key
As a general rule, children with ADHD do better when they get plenty of individual attention from coaches. That's why they're more likely to succeed with individual sports such as swimming and diving, wrestling, martial arts, and tennis - or even more rarified endeavors such as fencing and horseback riding.
Even though these sports themselves may be "individual," ADHD children still derive many of the social benefits of being on a team because they're frequently taught in groups with other kids. "In the case of swimming, wrestling and tennis they often are on teams," says Quinn. "It's just that the effort and instruction are individual."
The team situation also enables children to spread the guilt for a loss over the group, not just on him or herself - which is acceptable as long the child understands his or her role in the loss, and doesn't verbally blame or abuse teammates. Which means parents need to be closely involved.
In fact, parents are the key to sports success for most ADHD kids, particularly when they're young and selecting activities to pursue. "You have to work at seeking out what your kids are good at, what they're interested in, and what fits their personalities," says Quinn. "There's no one formula because no two ADHD kids are alike."
The Magic of Martial Arts
One group of activities that Quinn promotes for nearly all ADHD kids, though, is martial arts such as taekwondo. "Martial arts are all about control. You learn to control your body. The movements are smooth. There is an element of meditation (internal self control) in taekwondo." In addition, she says, teachers instruct rather than coach; when the child is shown step by step how to do something, there's little opportunity for distraction.
A lasting benefit of martial arts comes from its use of rituals such as bowing to the instructor, Quinn believes. "Rituals are good for ADHD kids because they make behavior automatic," she says. "For most of us, daily actions such as remembering to take your medicine are automatic. But without rituals such as 'every time I brush my teeth I take my medicine,' people with ADHD don't remember." Martial arts rituals can help teach kids with ADHD to accept, develop and use rituals in other areas of their lives.
What sports have worked well for your ADHD childern? Share them with other parents in the Parents of ADHD Children support group on ADDConnect.