I have been doing a lot of research on the topic of ADHD (if you can’t tell by some of the other posts) and to help kids (and parents) better cope with the disorder. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the mind works and how ADD and ADHD affect it.
School is starting soon, and that means classes and sports will also be starting. You may be wondering what’s the best sport or activity to put your child in, especially if you have noticed some hyperactivity. (Note: I don’t think every kid who is hyperactive has ADHD and I do think it’s extremely overly diagnosed. But some of this information is good for any child who needs a little extra help burning off some energy).
It has been proven that children who participate in extracurricular activities do better in school. I would be wary of doing too many activities as you don’t want to burn your child out, but getting them involved and interested in at least one thing early on can lead them into a lifelong appreciation for the activity.
What do sports teach? Teamwork, listening skills, discipline, social skills, focus, and above all, in my opinion, a sense of accomplishment. Children with ADHD and ADD tend to suffer from low self-esteem, especially as they get into elementary and middle school.
What do activities like music and art teach? Discipline, structure, a way to calm down, and again, a sense of accomplishment.
This article will focus on sports. The biggest question I keep seeing is “should I put my child in an individual sport, or a team sport?” It may seem daunting picturing your hyperactive child trying to work as a team and you may want to do an individual sport. Or, you may see this as an opportunity for them to challenge themselves and work with others. Below are options for both.
You do not have the issue of struggling to work as team but they will need to understand how to share their time. Each student usually gets a chance to try a new skill or lesson on their own. This may be hard for a child with ADHD or ADD but something they can overcome. They will also have to learn new skills by step-by-step instruction.
Benefits: can be very physically demanding which is good for ADHD children, gets one on one with coaches, still has team to work with even though rated individually
Make sure to research swim lessons or teams in your area. In some places this may be an expensive route but there have been many success stories. Obviously, Michael Phelps being one of the most popular.
Benefits: physically demanding, physical awareness, improves focus, great for children with sensory issues as well
The only downside I see to gymnastics is most children with ADHD and ADD suffer from impulse control problems and reckless behaviors. When learning difficult maneuvers, it may be something to consider and to monitor closely to lessen any injuries. Of course, most coaches and instructors know this and are trained to handle these behaviors.
Horse back riding:
Benefits: out in nature, learning patience and calmness, learns to respond and appreciate the animal
This may be one of the most expensive activities that you can find for children but again there have been many success stories. I would wary of horseback riding for those children with more severe ADHD as horses are animals. I love horses and horseback riding personally, but I have been thrown off of one as well and it is scary, not to mention dangerous. If your child doesn’t have a sense of how to control their impulsivity, at least a little, I would recommend working on that before trying horseback riding.
Benefits: team camaraderie, constant movement, little downtime between activities, sense of accomplishment
As with any team activity the biggest issue is learning to deal with losing and learning to work with others. That can be a turn off for some parents or a driving factor for others. I think just being open with your child beforehand that they may not win, but that’s it okay, will help with this so they are prepared for that. Soccer also has a very young starting age (some places as young as 2) and goes through most high schools so it’s something your child can grow with.
Benefits: teamwork, patience, sportsmanship, discipline
My biggest problem with baseball is that there tends to be a lot of downtime. If your child is playing outfield there may be lulls in time where they are not running or doing something active. This tends to let the mind wander and leads to boredom, which then leads to them not paying attention. Again, for especially hyperactive children, baseball may not be the best fit.
Benefits: concentration, teamwork, constant movement, sense of accomplishment
There are many mixed reviews about basketball and ADHD. For one thing, it’s a good sport because it is so high energy. On the other, it’s tough for some children because you must have serious focus and keep the ball in sight at all times. Many ADHD students struggle with this and can get frustrated during the game. My advice is, if you want to go this route, is to explain it as a trial. Tell your child there are many other things they can try to do if basketball doesn’t seem to be fun for them. If they are struggling with paying attention to it too much then they won’t enjoy the game and that defeats the whole purpose.
One thing worth mentioning is (just like with school and having a great teacher) any sport can be as good or as bad as the coach you get. If you have a coach who is understanding and patient then your child is more likely to succeed at whatever it is they are doing.