Imagine sitting in a room for six hours being told what to do, asking permission to use the toilet and only getting a total of 45 minutes for your breaks.
Then when the six hours are done and you head home you must complete at least another hour of sitting and concentrating on work handed to you.
Imagine this as your normal 9-5 but you have a bundle of energy built up inside, and if you try in any way to release it you are told off, detained and even worse given a label.
It may sound a little unrealistic but for a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or any other disorder this is what a normal day in school may feel like.
We say they have behavioural problems and the solution is to feed them with drugs. In most cases this is just the easy option, it’s the first thing we normally turn to when any of us have health problems. It’s convenient and easy to access but it’s not the only solution. There are other ways in which we can deal with our health problems, especially our kids.
I have worked with many children who have all types of disorders and they have so much energy it’s a joy to watch them release it through exercise, and it is a joy to see how more relaxed and happy they become.
Just because they don’t follow every instruction or play wrestle with another child doesn’t make them ‘bad’ or poor listeners.
Maybe they have so much positive energy built up inside that they want to release it.
So rather than telling them ‘don’t do that’, ‘follow this’ or even ‘take this it will calm you down’, let them run free, give them a ball, bat, hula hoop and let them explore.
Have you ever sat in on Saturday night when you really wanted to be out or worse still, told you have to stay in?
How did you feel? Anxious, angry, frustrated? How did you feel towards the person who told you to stay in?
Now think of a child with ADHD or with a bundle of energy. They are told this every day by teachers and parents.
Children still need guidance, structure, manners and the ability to follow instructions but there are times when we just have to let them play.
It is easy for me to say this as I’m not living with a child with ADHD or other disorders and I have the utmost respect for parents, teachers, classroom assistants and others who do their very best for each child.
What I am suggesting is considering different approaches – especially exercise – rather than medication alone.
A study from the Journal of Attention Disorders found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity for eight weeks significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in school kids.
The conclusion of the study was that “physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children”.
The researchers went on to write; “If physical activity is established as an effective intervention for ADHD, it will also be important to address possible complementary effects of physical activity and existing treatment strategies.”
I am in no way an expert on this topic but isn’t exercise something that could be handed out as freely as medication?
But I guess the big pharmaceutical companies don’t make as much money this way.
Exercise is good for us all, so why should we prevent kids from taking part simply because we think they won’t be able to do it?
Instead why not put them in a safe environment where they are exposed to exercise and the ability to fail and eventually learn?
I accept that it may take more time and patience for some kids to develop their own ability to deal with following rules and failure but by not exposing them to these situations, how are we preparing them for the rest of their lives?
I am not against kids, or adults for that matter, being prescribed drugs to help treat their disorder but it’s not the solution.
Personally I have used medication to help me with my own mental health problems but I never considered it a quick fix or long term solution.
It was something which helped me through some difficult times but the habits and methods like exercise, mediation and talking to people were the real solutions.
The other day I got a call from a very caring mother who suggested staying and looking after her child who has ADHD during our Core Kids class.
She thought the program had been brilliant for him but saw an incident take place one day where someone was bothering her child which the coach didn’t see, however did see her son retaliate.
She was fearful that her son could have reacted rather badly because he couldn’t get his point across that the other child was bothering him first.
After a while we both agreed that it is best she is not present in the session, and without putting her son in any danger she agreed it is better he is exposed to this and other life situations that come from participating in sport and physical activity.
Added to this are the health benefits for brain and physical development.
This was just one approach from a very brave parent who, like all of us, want only the best for their child.
But having an open mind-set to let go and not control everything can be one of the hardest but best things a parent can do for the development of their child.