ADHD is defined as a behavioral disorder characterized by chronic and developmentally inappropriate degrees of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Students with ADHD may have the following symptoms: being distracted very easily, miss details, forget things, have trouble focusing on a single task and become bored very easily unless doing something enjoyable. Looking at these symptoms, you might think that some of them are common in most people. Did anyone ever stop and think that maybe these students are just bored? Or perhaps these students are not passionate about what they are learning? Teachers dealing with students with ADHD must find ways to allow these types of students’ room for creativity to find their passion.
In children with ADHD, physical education can have many benefits. Physical Education is the only place in the school system where it is acceptable to release excess energy. Children are not meant to be able to sit in a desk all day long and be expected to focus for the entire time. There are college students who have trouble sitting through one class that is an hour long without dozing off. There are business professionals who can hardly sit through an hour long meeting without getting bored. How could a child be expected to be held to such high standards for nearly six hours a day? These students should not be looked at as a problem. For example, a school system in Colorado has a brilliant way of dealing with students who act up behaviorally in class. If a student acts up, he or she has to go on a training bike for ten minutes. This way, attention will be restored to the student without true punishment being implemented.
One medication that is often given as a treatment for ADHD is Ritalin. Ritalin is a stimulant used to stimulate the brain and central nervous system to slow down hyperactive children and improve concentration. However, the drug has negative side effects that outweigh its benefits. Ritalin is highly addictive and causes nervousness, blood pressure and pulse changes, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, insomnia, and headaches to name a few. Would a parent really want their child on a drug with so many side effects like this one?
Physical education class is a place where some children can find an interest that is truly captivating to him or her. It is very possible that some school subjects do not capture a child’s interest, therefore leading to the behavioral effects of ADHD. These students, through physical education are given opportunities to explore situations that will be presented in the real world outside of the classroom. They have the opportunity to become actively engaged socially and academically. Physical education helps improve concentration, which aids in the ability to complete tasks. Self-esteem can be increased because students are being put in a spot where they can express themselves in a way other than paper and pencil learning. Having a break in the day where students can run around and play can increase academic performance in the classroom as well as reduce stress and anxiety levels. Physical activity releases endorphins, which are hormone-like compounds that regulate mood, pleasure and pain. Physical activity also elevates the brain’s dopamine, nor epinephrine, and serotonin levels, which are brain chemicals that affect the brains ability to focus.
Instead of looking at ADHD as a curse or a disease, some people look at it as a gift. Some of the most amazing athletes of all time are diagnosed with ADHD. Michael Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympian of all time, was diagnosed with ADHD at age 9. Michael Jordan, arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all time has ADHD. Terry Bradshaw the Pro Football Hall of Famer who quarterbacked the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s had ADHD. Pete Rose had ADD that probably helped propel him to become the 1975 World Series MVP and to hold the major league all-time hit record. These athletes found their passion, and devoted all of their attention into what they love. It is obvious that when a person affected with ADHD finds their passion; there are no boundaries to how he or she can excel. For these individuals, physical activity allowed them to take something with a negative connotation to it, and make their dreams come true. ADHD can be seen as a gift instead of a curse.
The true key to handling children with ADHD is not giving them medicine. It is finding out what gets their brain working; what interests them most, whether it is sports, science, art, music, or the outdoors, and allowing them to engage in it. It is about giving them the chance to be creative and passionate about whatever they want, and incorporating it into their everyday learning. Physical activity is clearly the more beneficial alternative to ADHD medication. It is the most inexpensive, easily accessible form of treatment that is self prescribed to fit the individual with ADHD. When trying to find a solution to the “ADHD problem,” physical activity is the best drug on the market.