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ADHD in Children Health Center

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How Sports Can Help Kids With ADHD

Choosing a Sport continued...

Both McGough and Salpekar say that martial arts, particularly karate, tae kwon do, and others that emphasize forms, are very popular with kids who have ADHD. "In classes, the kids line up to do the same moves, and that reinforces timing and focus," says Salpekar. "Kids with ADHD really take to that."

Salpekar, who coached kids' soccer for many years, also recommends that parents pay close attention to their child's personality when choosing a sport. If they're not very competitive, he says, don't put them in a competitive activity.

"Enjoyment, participation, and peer bonding are much more important in the long run than the competitive aspect," he explains.

That said, if your child has real talent and drive for a certain sport, by all means, encourage them to compete, says McGough. ADHD should not limit a child's ambition. Look at Michael Phelps. He has the disorder. He also has 18 Olympic gold medals for swimming.

"If you're really good, go for it," says McGough.

No Magic Bullet

Despite the benefits of playing sports, parents should realize that it won't affect or improve the disorder itself.

"Playing sports does not impact the core features of ADHD," says McGough. "You can't, for example, expect that your child will run off all of their energy. That's naive and ineffective."

As for medication, says Salpekar, some kids do fine without it, but most do better when they take it. "Kids often keep up much better with medicine, but it's not essential," says Salpekar. "See how it works."

The decision may also depend in part on the sport. If you have a child who wants to try football, medication may be quite useful.

"Football has a lot of detail in the plays, and kids don't do as well without medications, parents have told me," says Salpekar.

Again, McGough says, the real impact of sports will be on your child's self-esteem, confidence, and social life, all of which are crucial to build up as early as possible.

"It's part of an approach to ADHD that is underappreciated," says McGough.

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Reviewed on July 24, 2013

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