Feature Archive

ADHD and After-School Activities: Finding the Right Fit

ADHD can be a challenge but it needn't sideline kids from after-school activities.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Getting through the school day can be a struggle for kids with ADHD -- but after-school activities don't have to be. Given the right activity and adequate support, kids with ADHD can shine.

Consider Olympic champion Michael Phelps. ADHD made it nearly impossible for him to sit still in the classroom or grasp abstract concepts on the athletic field, but in the pool he displays extraordinary focus and drive. While not every kid with ADHD can become the next "phenom" swimmer, he or she can learn to feel like winners outside the classroom. Here's how.

"Know your kid," says Carol Watkins, MD, child psychiatrist and spokeswoman for CHADD (Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Disorder). "Children with ADHD are really quite varied. Some are hyperactive, and need to get the energy out. Some are more inattentive, and that's not what they need. Others have social skills issues. And some are really impulsive," she tells WebMD.

Activities to Pursue

While there's no single activity that guarantees kids with ADHD instant success, certain types of activities tend to reap more positive results. Here's what the experts suggest.

Seek activities that offer individualized instruction. Examples include diving, wrestling, tennis, and martial arts. "Most kids learn by watching kids around them, but many kids with ADHD don't learn as well by being thrown into the mix," says E. Mark Mahone, PhD, research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. Rather, these kids tend to benefit from one-on-one instruction.