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In Sports, and Life, Can Determination Help Kids with ADHD Overcome Inattention?

ADHD interferes with my daughter Natalie’s ability to focus, but, what she lacks in ability to pay attention, she makes up for in determination.

Determination helped her learn to tie her shoes. With persistence, she overcame poor balance and coordination to be able to ride her bike before her fifth birthday. And from her first year of preschool through today, Natalie’s teachers have said that, despite the ants in her pants, the scabs she just has to pick, and her anxiety’s overblown worries, she consistently tries her hardest. In my mind, that’s more important than the grades that persistence earns her

Natalie has been taking tae kwon do lessons through Ames’s Parks and Recreation Department for some time now, and her stick-to-it-ness seems to have caught her instructors’ attention in that arena also. At age nine-and-a-half, she’s one of the youngest and smallest students in her class, which encompasses students ages eight to adult.

Natalie moved from the beginner’s white belt to a yellow belt in about six months, but has been stuck at yellow for going on nine months. She’s found it upsetting to watch her classmates test and move to higher ranks, while her teachers say she’s not quite ready. But, despite her frustration, she hasn’t quit.

The program holds an annual potluck dinner and awards ceremony, and for the second year in a row, Natalie and I didn’t attend. I often schedule a respite worker to take Natalie to tae kwon do classes. (This is a free service we have received since applying for Iowa’s Children’s Mental Health Waiver. We aim for 48 hours of relief per month, but on bad months, like this one, we get one and a half hours.) Experience shows that she behaves better if I’m not there. Because I didn’t know the instructors, students, or other parents, and didn’t feel comfortable going, we skipped the dinner.

During announcement time at the next one of Natalie’s classes (I accompanied here this time; we didn’t get much respite this month, remember?), the Master Carpenter made a special presentation. One of the awardees wasn’t present at the annual dinner, so she had one last award to give. Out of all the students in the program, of all ranks and ages, she recognized my daughter, Natalie Marner, as the student who best represented one of the five tenets of tae kwon do, giving her the award for “Perseverance.” Natalie accepted her certificate in uncharacteristic shocked silence as her classmates applauded. I’ve never felt more proud of Nat, nor so pleased that others “got” her.

Every day, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety set up road blocks for Natalie to go over, under, or around, just to end up at a destination that, for the rest of us, is no harder than a walk in the park. But with “Perseverance” as her middle name, by God, I know my girl can do it. I hope that as she goes through life, those around her continue to notice.