How Sports Can Help Kids With ADHD
Sports are a key part of many children's lives, and there's no reason they shouldn't be for kids with ADHD.
Little research exists about the benefits of sports for kids with ADHD. Doctors often field parents' questions on the subject, though.
The answer? Get in the game. Sports and ADHD are a winning combination.
Sports Boost Self-Esteem
Kids with ADHD often feel isolated from their classmates. Sports are a great way to get them involved, says Jay Salpekar, MD. He's a child psychiatrist with the ADHD Clinic at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
"Sports offer lots of social interaction in addition to physical fitness," Salpekar says. This helps kids with ADHD bond with their peers, "and it helps get them out of their shell."
Child psychiatrist James McGough, MD, of UCLA's ADHD Clinic, agrees. "A common issue with ADHD kids is to find something to help them gain confidence and self-esteem," he says. "They can use sports as a vehicle for making and having friends. And healthy activities like sports are better than sitting alone or in front of the television."
How to Choose a Sport
How do you know what sport will be best for your child? Ask him what he wants to do.
Many kids will see or try a lot of different athletic activities, whether at school, during camp, or in after-school programs, McGough says. That gives them the chance to decide what appeals the most. "Identify and support your child's own interests," McGough says. "That's your starting point."
The sport should be one that will hold your child's interest. McGough says baseball involves a lot of time standing in the outfield, and that invites distraction. Soccer, on the other hand, keeps a child moving.
He says some reports -- but little research -- suggest that solo sports like tennis, swimming, and running may better suit kids with attention problems. Team sports like football or basketball require kids to pay constant attention to other players, strategies, and plays. That will be tough for a child with ADHD. But if your child really wants to try a team sport, you should encourage it, McGough says.