If you or someone close to you has a child that’s been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you probably know how challenging it can be for a parent to understand and accommodate the child’s unique needs. ADHD symptoms include lacking focus, inability to play quietly or keep still for age-appropriate lengths of time, and a lack of awareness of the feelings and needs of others.
One of the areas of life that many kids typically enjoy which can be difficult for kids who have ADHD is the realm of sports. We all know that the physical fitness and confidence boosting associated with sports is beneficial for kids. So which sports are a realistic option for kids with ADHD symptoms who struggle with some of the more popular team sports? Look no further than martial arts.
According to pediatrician Dr. Leonard Pollack, M.D., from the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, martial arts is a good fit for kids who have ADHD because of its individualized nature. Rather than being forced to try to pay close attention in an environment where there are numerous other kids each doing different tasks (as you have with baseball, for example), you have the opportunity in martial arts to work with the instructor one-on-one. Even in martial arts classroom situations with many other students, much of the instruction time will involve groups of students all working on the same skills at the same time, while the Sensei observes them and notes their progress. This focused type of instruction often works better for easily distracted kids with ADHD than some of the less individualized sports.
Progress at Your Own Pace
Another reason why martial arts is an ideal choice for kids who have ADHD is their ability to progress at their own pace. Because of their lack of focus, kids with ADHD may find it more difficult to learn and master some sports skills at the same pace as other team members. In a team sport, this can lead to the child with ADHD getting picked on or yelled at by their teammates, which doesn’t exactly help their sometimes already low self-esteem. In a well-run martial arts class with a teacher who specializes in teaching kids with ADHD, however, the child can be allowed to work at their own pace.
Plenty of Variety
Finally, martial arts offers ADHD students who have a tendency to get bored by too much of the same activity a variety of different skills to work on in the course of one class period. They can work on learning their basic breaks, their forms, their stances, and sparring techniques, to name just a few skills that even beginners will be introduced to in the first few months. If they struggle in one or more areas, chances are pretty good that there will be at least one aspect of the class which they really gravitate toward learning. This favorite technique can be a building block for a wise instructor to use as a foundation for giving the child with ADHD confidence in their opportunity for success. As a child progresses, they’ll be introduced to even more new and exciting techniques.
As you can see, there are several great reasons why martial arts are a viable choice for parents who are looking for positive organized physical activities for their youngsters with ADHD. In the next two articles in this three-part series, we will explore some of the strategies martial arts instructors can use to more effectively teach the kids in their classes who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Continue reading with Part 2.