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Sport for children with ADHD

Sport is important for all children and there is a whole wide range of activities that they can do. Of course what we want to know is: “How should we go about it?” especially as most parents don’t have too much spare time or energy. The problem is that kids with ADHD can be so challenging that it seems to be harder to do things with them, and it takes much more time. It would be great to have a formula explaining it all down to the last detail. Unfortunately there are no particular formulas for success; however here are a few helpful hints for you. We’ve mentioned a few sports, but these basic ideas can be used in just about every sporting activity:

Parental involvement

Walking around the block with them 3 times a week on a regular basis can have a tremendous impact. Parental involvement is very, very important because children learn from what we do, rather than from what we say. There are several things we can do to help children enjoy these activities and here are a few ideas:

Make it fun

If children regard the walk as ‘just another thing they have to do’ no one is going to get full benefit from the exercise, and so it’s important for them to enjoy the experience. Introduce fun into the walk (or whatever activity you are all doing), point out interesting things, notice what interests them and maybe explore the topic further.

Be supportive and encouraging

If they lag behind avoid telling them that they are lazy, sullen, not co-operating, or whatever. Criticism like that is damaging, and also kills enjoyment of activities. If, for example, they struggle to catch a ball, avoid snapping “Don’t close your eyes!” rather say “Keep your eyes open and follow the ball!” Often they are still learning basic skills.

Keep verbal instructions to a minimum

Ensure that all instruction to children is positive. Focus on children’s effort, and then make a supportive comment. If they had to run to the right spot to kick the ball, comment about them being alert and running to that spot (even if the kick wasn’t that great). Even if progress is slow, the ongoing encouragement can help them want to do better in this sport and in other areas of their life. Support and encouragement builds their self-esteem. A good self-esteem can improve self-motivation, and is an important part of success.

If necessary, break things down into do-able chunks

If the regular bicycle ride includes a steep hill, arrange to ride half way up the hill, and then walk the rest – so that they haven’t failed. When they are comfortable riding that far up the hill, then extend it to three quarters and eventually up to the top. In this way the child will experience the half way mark as a success rather than part of failure. Each and every little success adds to confidence.

What is the right sport?

It’s so easy for us as parents to let our own agendas choose the sport… maybe you excelled in a particular activity and it seems logical your child will do the same… or you’d always wanted to do that sport but never had the opportunity. This seldom works, and usually doesn’t.

Consider if he or she is quiet and sensitive, or robust and competitive? What interests them? Think about whether your child would prefer to be in a team sport, eg soccer, netball, or whether they’d prefer to be competing against themselves e.g. cycling, swimming or, whether they’d like to do horse riding.

Selecting the right sport

  1. Speak to your children and find out what they would like to do. Let them know that it is important that they do something.
  2. Experiment a bit. Expose them to a range of sports and see what they would like to do.
  3. They need a support team. There are many things that they can do and these include swimming, martial arts, running, walking, cycling, gymnastics, tennis, soccer, netball, etc.

Done on a regular basis, these activities and many more help our children become healthier, happier and make it easier for them to concentrate with their schoolwork! It also supports happier and more secure families.

Heather Picton


Article Courtesy of:
ADHASA (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Support Group of Southern Africa)