It’s much more than just the specific sport; it’s about reinforcing positive attitude and lessons for life.

The ‘Up’ Side Signs of ADHD

Having ADHD can be challenging. But many of the symptoms of ADHD can also be strengths:

  • Individuals with ADHD tend to be high energy, active and hands on, which can be helpful for professions such as sports, outdoor jobs, trades and construction work.
  • Excitement seeking: Because people with ADHD hate to be bored, they often report seeking out stimulating work like policing or firefighting. In health care, they prefer working in emergency departments or as paramedics. They also tend to do better in jobs where they can work with people, instead of working behind a desk doing paperwork.
  • Creativity: People with ADHD often do well in creative jobs in the arts or the entertainment industry.

There are 3 main types of ADHD:

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This is the most common type, causing troubles with attention and hyperactivity.
Typical symptoms of ADHD:

  • Attention deficit: Being easily distracted, with trouble focusing on activities that are not very interesting or boring (like schoolwork or chores). Able to focus when the activity is exciting and stimulating, like video games or sports.
  • Hyperactivity: Needing to move or fidget (unable to sit still in class or stay seated in class).
  • Impulsivity: Tending to do things and act before thinking.
  • Disorganization: Often losing or misplacing things, or forgetting about homework assignments.

Children and youth with untreated ADHD are more likely to develop problems with school and peers. This can add to later problems with mood. And mood problems may lead a teen to ‘self-medicate’ with drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviours.

ADHD, Primarily Inattentive Type

Also known as ADD (attention deficit disorder). Classic ADHD’ occurs most often in males, but females can
have it too.

This type of ADHD mostly involves problems with attention, without the hyperactivity seen with ADHD. The
major symptom with this type of ADHD is:

  • Attention deficit: Trouble paying attention (unable to focus on school work or chores at home). A ‘classic case’ of this type of ADHD, is an inattentive girl who daydreams and is forgetful (although boys can have this type as well). Because children with this type of ADHD are not usually disruptive in class, they don’t usually come to the attention of their teachers

ADHD, Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive

Children and youth with this type of ADHD are usually able to pay attention, but have problems with:

  • Hyperactivity: Needing to move or fidget (unable to sit still in class or stay seated).
  • Impulsivity: Tending to do things and act before thinking.

Children and youth with ADHD may also become:

    • Easily frustrated and have mood swings. Many children and youth with ADHD report having strong emotions and get frustrated easily. Strong emotions can make someone passionate and fun to be with, but feeling frustrated and angry too often can cause troubles.
    • Easily bored: Children and youth with ADHD crave stimulation (from sights, sounds, touch, movement and feelings). This can be a problem, because many situations in life (like school work and chores) aren’t that exciting. This can make it hard for those with ADHD to finish tasks or stay organized. They may try to get others to give them the stimulation they crave, not always caring if they are getting positive or negative attention. For example, a boy with ADHD may do well with structure (when he is kept busy and occupied), but gets himself into trouble when he’s bored because he does things to annoy his brothers and sisters.

Children and youth with ADHD have trouble controlling or ‘regulating’ their attention. So they have trouble paying attention in the right situations.


To focus properly, a child or teen needs to have “just enough” stimulation from the senses (movement, touch, sound, smell, sight) and feelings (like good relationships without too much conflict).

Under stimulation

Signs of ‘under stimulation’

The person may appear bored, fidgety, or restless, and may even doze off!

You can help by:

Increasing sensory stimulation

      • Movement: Allowing movement, giving things to fidget with (e.g. stress balls); hyperactive children tend to be under-stimulated when it comes to movement, which explains their need to move
      • Sounds: Giving just enough sound stimulation (e.g. background music, but ensure that there is similarly not too much sound)

Feeling “just right” or getting “just enough” stimulation

Signs of ‘just enough’ stimulation

Person is alert, calm, “in the zone”

‘Just enough’ stimulation is the reason why children who aren’t paying attention in class (because it’s not enough stimulation) can pay attention to video games and favourite activities (as long as they don’t spend too much time doing these activities!)

Video games and other favourite activities give them ‘just enough’ stimulation. Of course, too much video game can then lead the child to become over-stimulated, which is not good… Some children can become ‘hyper-focused’ on an activity they like, and have trouble moving their attention to other things when needed.


Signs of over-stimulation

      • Feeling stressed, overwhelmed
      • Information overload with too much happening at once or too many feelings and/or sensations

You can help by:

      • Cutting down on stimulation (fewer people, less activity, less noise)
      • Using calming techniques
      • Especially in a classroom setting, individuals with ADHD often report that they are easily distracted by too much noise, too much visual clutter or things to look at, or too much activity in large, open classrooms.

In such situations, they do better when there is less noise, less visual distractions or activity.

Diet and ADHD

Food additives: In a small number of children and youth with ADHD, parents notice that some food additives may make behaviour and concentration worse. Some researchers think that in these children and youth, food additives may get turned into brain chemicals that ‘excite’ the brain too much. If you have noticed this in your child, you can suggest trying and keeping these additives out of the child’s diet for a few weeks:

      • MSG (monosodium glutamate), which is used in many restaurants and fast foods, and in some packaged processed foods
      • Artificial food coloring, especially red dyes (avoid Jell-O™, Kool-Aid™, fruit “drinks” like Hi-C™)
      • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (e.g. NutraSweet™)

Omega 3 and fatty acids:

Some studies suggest that some cases of ADHD may be caused by a lack of omega 3 fatty acids, such as Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA):

      • Skin problems like eczema, dry skin or dandruff
      • Brittle nails
      • Hair
      • Feeling very thirsty, and needing to pass more urine
      • Future research will tell us if Omega 3 fatty acid supplements will help some children and youth with ADHD.

Expand the Reach is a web based resource for coaches, athletes of all levels, parents and community organizations to support Mental Wellness, and early intervention for better performance in sport & life. 

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