ADHD and After-School Activities (cont.)

Activities that require too much divided attention. "In soccer or basketball, you're focusing on a dozen things at a time," Mahone says. That's not to say a child with ADHD should avoid soccer entirely. "If you have a skilled coach or teacher who can communicate information in ways that make it interesting, and the step-by-step pieces of being organized more doable, then it may work," Mahone tells WebMD.

Activities that require fine motor skills. "It's fairly well documented that in children with ADHD, some parts of the brain are less developed, particularly those involved in providing control over motor activities," Mahone explains. Therefore, activities like painting or manipulating puzzle pieces might leave some children with ADHD feeling frustrated.

Strategies for Success

For kids with ADHD, success in after-school activities depends not only on the chosen activity, but also on the circumstances under which that activity is performed. Here's how parents can help create favorable ones:

  • Give the child the tools he or she needs to succeed. In some cases, this may mean continuing the medication taken during the school day. "It makes no sense to medicate a child during the school day and not to give them the benefit of the medication during extracurricular activities that require focus," Kurtz says. Parents can make the best choice for their child by consulting their prescribing physician.
  • Know the coach or instructor. A child's success can hinge on how experienced, mature, and flexible the instructor is. "Often, after-school activities are run by people not as well trained [as the teachers]," Kurtz tells WebMD. He suggests that parents make an effort to identify instructors who know how to respond to the unique needs of kids with ADHD.
  • Communicate with the coach or instructor. While it's helpful for parents to let instructors know if their child has ADHD, making them aware of ADHD-related behavioral or social issues can be critical. Mahone provides this example: "Girls with ADHD are often 'quietly inattentive.' The instructor might need to know that she has difficulty sustaining her attention for longer periods of time."

Make kids aware of their schedule. Kids with ADHD tend to thrive on routine, and shun surprises. "Post a schedule on the wall that kids can see," Mahone suggests.

Respect kids' fatigue. "At the end of the school day, kids with ADHD are often mentally fatigued, although they may look like they're up like a top," Mahone tells WebMD. "Be sensitive to overprogramming and follow their cue," Watkins adds.

Sometimes, success in after-school activities comes down to gut instinct. "There's no one way that works for everybody. If a kid has a passion, you want to kind of go with that," Watkins says.

Published Sept. 7, 2004.

SOURCES: Carol Watkins, MD, child psychiatrist; and spokeswoman, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. E. Mark Mahone, PhD, research scientist, Kennedy Krieger Institute; and assistant professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. Steven Kurtz, PhD, psychiatrist and clinical coordinator, ADHD Institute for New York University's Child Study Center.

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