Sports can be a wonderful experience for kids. In addition to the obvious physical exercise, there are many benefits. Children learn responsibility and commitment, while having fun. They can also develop teamwork and leadership skills. Physical activity can help alleviate stress, something many of our children need.
Selecting an appropriate sport for children with “invisible” special needs, such as ADHD and sensory issues, can be difficult. Some options may be unsuccessful because of the needed hand-eye coordination or necessary motor skills.
A sport such as softball or t-ball can bore many children. There is a lot of waiting. Waiting for everyone to get their turn at bat. Waiting for a ball to make it to the outfield. All that waiting is a breeding ground for disaster.
Soccer is action packed from the moment a child hits the field. However, if a child does not get a chance to get his foot on the ball, as all beginner players desire, a meltdown can result.
A kinesthetic sensory seeker may benefit by being involved in karate. These kids can learn self discipline and self regulation, as well as have a healthy physical outlet for excess energy.
Team or Individual High Intensity Sports
Anecdotal evidence suggests that children with ADHD are better suited to individual sports rather than team sports. This may hold some truths, but with the ‘right’ mix of coaches and supportive parents, a team sport has the potential to become an excellent learning environment. It is also suggested to find a high intensity sport for children with ADHD. Here are some possibilities:
Suggested High Intensity Team Sports
- Field Hockey
- Indoor Hockey
- Ice Hockey
Suggested High Intensity Individual Sports
- Martial Arts
- Track & Field
- Snow Sports
- Ice Skating
Evaluate Your Sports Options
In addition to team versus individual sports, there are many other things to consider. Here are a few:
- Intensity. How intense is the sport? The higher the intensity and less waiting around time the better.
- Physical Contact. How much physical contact is involved? Lot’s of contact may be wonderful for a sensory seeker, but not for one that is sensory defensive.
- Timing is everything. When is practice? The earlier in the week is better. Is there time for dinner before hand? Is there down time from school? Is it too close to bedtime routines?
- Collaboration. Does the coach allow parental support? Even as team mom on the sidelines will help your child feel a sense of security.
- Experience. How much experience does the coach have when it comes to the sport, to kids with ADHD or SPD?
- Support. Does the coach have an assistant? There should be a ratio of 1:8 or less at a practice with younger children.
- Organization. How organized is the coach? The less waiting around time the better the outcome for a child with ADHD or SPD.
- Discipline. Does the coach have a behavior plan? What are the parameters or expectations? What are the consequences? Is there immediate cause and effect? For example, if the child is not following directions, does he stop and do a lap around the field? What are the rewards for doing a good job?
Whatever sport that is chosen must be fun. The moment it stops being fun, it is time to have a chat with the coach. If sharing insights about your child’s individual needs does not lead to success, consider trying something else or trying another team.
Share your sporting adventures!