ADHD and Exercise – When will schools get it?


I’ve just been in to meet with my son Michael’s head of year, two teachers and Special Needs co-ordinator. None of them seemed to think that excluding my ADHDer from sport yesterday was not the best way forward when they also wanted to talk about his challenging behaviour in class. As they went on and on about how he liked to “challenge the rules”, and his mis-behavioural points, I wanted to say that – like a Golden Retriever dog that always brings back the ball – he wasn’t going to change. And I couldn’t help thinking – “well you have the power, if you don’t want to argue the toss over the rules with him – just don’t engage’.

More worryingly for me, is that he doesn’t have the choice to challenge his exclusion once again from extra-curricular activities. Last term he was made to sit in a library while others were outside playing games, because he was deemed a “risk” (to himself? to others?). Despite the fact that he had a giant black eye from a friend hitting him in the face during hockey after school (we are used to Michael being accident prone and didn’t complain) this time Michael was the culprit. Except Michael was excluded from hockey club for hitting another boy with the hockey stick.

Arrrrrgggghh. Why can’t teachers get it? Exercise is the best medication for ADHD?

It may seem like a Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious, but look at the brain scans of those ADHD boys in the above link? How much more coloured brain activity is there after exercise, which helps the boys to focus. I did point out to the teachers that if my child was in a wheelchair – as opposed to having an invisible disability – would they stop him playing basketball because they didn’t have a ramp onto the pitch, or were worried about health and safety of the other children?

Reading ADHDer Michael Phelps biography Beneath the Surface shows how well the traits of ADHD can be channelled into something positive (more Olympic golds than any other athlete EVER in the history of mankind, for example). Diagnosed in sixth grade, and with a teacher for a mother, Phelps struggled (and obviously still is with his current DUI and speeding charges) but had good support to do well.”Some kids threw fits when things didn’t go well; I’d throw my goggles.” writes Phelps.”One afternoon, a kid from Delaware beat me in the 200-yard freestyle at a meet in Princeton, New Jersey, and I remember feeling the goggle-tossing urge inside of me. This could be a really good heave, I thought. I’m really made about this. Instead, I kept it inside, let it simmer and waited for it to boil over during the remaining races. I had five more events at that meet, won each of them, and equalled a national age-group record”.

“It was uncharacteristic of me not to vent publicly, because that’s what I did back then when things didn’t go well, but it was a good lesson that I could find more contructive outlets for my frustrations by keeping my mouth shut, getting back in the pool, and kicking everyone’s butt. If only I could remember that all the time”.

If only teachers could take a lesson out of Phelps’ book, and issue the old-fashioned punishment of forcing a misbehaving boy to run round the pitch a couple of times, drop down and do press ups or get back in the pool. That, in turn, would help everyone – teachers, child, parents –  instead of this feminisation of education, where everyone is excluded in case someone gets hurt.

So what do you think? Keep that ADHDer inside the library and exclude him if he acts up in games lesson, or “punish” him with more sport?


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