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A diagnosis of ADHD does not have to be a negative when it comes to sports or any other endeavor for that matter.  Research on ADHD has shown that there are many gifts that come with being ADHD, including:

  • Creativity
  • Adventurousness
  • Seeing the big picture
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Being comfortable with change and even chaos
  • Lots of energy

However, sports is one arena where these gifts allow kids, teens and adults with ADHD to do exceptionally well.  Asurprising number of professional athletes have ADHD.  In fact, it has been estimated that eight to ten percent of all pro athletes have ADHD, as compared to four to five percent of the general population of adults.  Some examples include:

  • Terry Bradshaw, the four time Super Bowl champion quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Michael Phelps, the swimmer who holds the record for most gold medals in a single Olympic games
  • Michael Jordan, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, probably the greatest basketball player of recent times

Michael Jordan – Poetry in Motion

Sports can help the child with ADHD; they are a good energy outlet for children with ADHD and a way to improve interaction skills with others.  In addition to getting rid of the energy from hyperactivity, it can also serve as an outlet they can use to channel their frustration.  The physical activity of sports release natural endorphins which can help relieve the stress that many ADHD children experience.

But choosing the right sport is essential.  First it has to be a sport the child can connect with.  It should also play to the strengths of the ADHD child.  Every child is unique and there are no absolute guidelines.  However, some good candidates can be sport where the rules are straightforward and constant action or motion is essential versus focused concentration.  Such sports might include:

  • Swimming
  • Soccer
  • Hockey
  • Martial arts

In addition, taking daily walks, biking, fishing and other outdoor activities have been shown to have positive effects on behavioral problems and the ability to focus for children with ADHD.  Sports or vigorous physical activity can help connect ADHD kids with their social peers in a way that plays to their strengths and helps them learn to overcome the challenges their condition presents them with every day.  This can be one more valuable gift they can realize from ADHD.

Celebrity designer Ty Pennington, host of ABC’s popular Extreme Makeover – Home Edition and Trading Spaces programs, was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager and now talks openly and publiclyabout his experience managing the disorder.  He is an advocate for early ADHD treatment and wants to help other kids and families understand that it’s possible to live a productive and fulfilled life with ADHD.

In the past, treatment for kids with ADHD mostly centered around medication; but today, ADHD coaching offers children and teens a highly effective method to develop the skills they need to succeed in school and later in the workplace.  The Institute for Advancement of ADHD Coaching defines ADHD coaching as:

. . . a designed partnership that combines coaching skills with knowledge of Attention Deficit Disorder, a neurobiological condition. The coaching process enhances quality of life, improves performance and supports growth and change. The purpose of AD/HD coaching is to provide support, structure and accountability.  Coach and client collaboratively explore strengths, talents, tools and new learning to increase self-awareness and personal empowerment. Together they design strategies and actions and monitor progress by creating accountability in line with goals and aspirations.

An ADHD coach is not a therapist.  The Attention Deficit Disorder Association provides this clarification:

[A] therapist helps a person with emotional problems and growth (which may stem from having a disorder such as AD/HD). An AD/HD coach works specifically with AD/HD issues helping the AD/HD person learn ways to set realistic goals and reach them.

ADHD coaching for high school and college students can encompass many elements, including:

  • Scheduling
  • Goal Setting
  • Confidence Building
  • Organizing
  • Focusing
  • Prioritizing
  • Persisting at Tasks

The video below provides a brief example of how ADHD coaching works.

The costs for ADHD coaching can vary considerably and will usually depend on the frequency and length of coaching sessions.  There are programs to help parents with the cost of coaching.  For example, the Edge Foundation offers coaching scholarships to families that qualify.

Ty Pennington’s ADHD was not diagnosed until he went to college.  In interviews, he has recalled the impact it had on his self esteem.  As his story illustrates, however, ADHD does not have to be a career blocker.  Living with ADHD can be a struggle, but coaching at an earlier age for teens with ADHD can make their road to personal fulfillment smoother.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is defined in the Robert Woods Johnson pediatrics glossary as:

A syndrome (a group of symptoms or signs) that is usually characterized by serious and persistent difficulties, resulting in inattentiveness or distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

There is currently no diagnostic laboratory test for ADHD.  Generally, for a diagnosis of ADHD, the behaviors must appear before an individual reaches age seven, continue for at least six months, be more frequent than in other children of the same age, and cause impairment in at least two areas of life (school, home, work, or social function).  Steps taken toward a diagnosis of ADHD may involve:

  • Medical examination
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Clinical interview
  • Psychological testing

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) provides diagnostic criteria for ADHD and a list of symptoms which should be present for a confirmed diagnosis.  Recent surveys have confirmed earlier studies that show the strong impact of ADHD on the lives of both children and adults.

Why should we as a society care about AD/HD?  Studies have shown that the social, personal and financial impacts of untreated ADHD can be significant.  For example, when compared with their non-ADHD peers, adults with ADHD may be:

  • Three times more likely to be currently unemployed
  • Two times more likely to have problems keeping friends
  • Forty-seven percent more likely to have trouble saving money to pay bills
  • Four times more likely to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease

Treatment options have tended to focus on medication and behavior modification.  One of the options in the latter category that shows promise, especially for kids and teens with ADHD, is coaching.  Coaches can:

  • Assess the environment, identify needs, set goals, and offer suggestions and guidance.
  • Set structure, provide support, and help implement strategies for skill building.
  • Team up with other professionals (physicians, psychiatrists, counselors, and teachers) to ensure that services are coordinated at home and at school.
  • Teach and foster appropriate social skills, self-discipline, self-reliance, and self-advocacy.
  • Schedule regular phone or e-mail “check-ins” to monitor progress and goals.
  • Build self-esteem and confidence.

Michael PhelpsADHD can be effectively managed.  Many highly successful individuals with ADHD have overcome its potential limitations through techniques like coaching.  They have learned to manage the condition and even leverage it in their careers – e.g. Michael Phelps.  Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD at age 9.  He won a world record eight Olympic Gold medals this summer.

But ADHD is best managed by early diagnosis and treatment.  Otherwise, as research has shown, it becomes a problem for all of society.