Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 10 percent of school-age children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Kids with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive and have trouble focusing. Multiple research studies have proven benefits come along with exercising while having ADHD.
CrossFit Kids was a program designed with the intention to change lives of children and teens for the better, and at 12 Labours CrossFit in Baltimore, Maryland, it is doing just that. Heather Dexter, a Coach for the kids class called Little Lions, sees weekly, through her students and her son who personally struggles with ADHD, just how beneficial the class can be.
“What’s great about CrossFit Kids for kids with ADHD is it’s a 30- to 40-minute class with the same basic schedule every time,” said Dexter. “We sit at the board and talk about what’s to come so they are never thrown off by something they didn’t expect. They get a chance to talk about their life because I want them to kind of understand the sense of community that the adults get, and they all get to know each other and become friends. They get the structure, but we also give them a chance to have fun while doing it. That’s the beauty of CrossFit Kids: they’re learning about fitness and how to move, but they are also having a good time doing it.”
The ability to focus for extended periods of time is the main struggle for those with ADHD, so programming is key when working with children with the disability.
“The way it is programmed to be broken up helps them focus,” explained Dexter. “Whereas in an adult class, they are going to teach you all the different ways about how to do a specific move more quickly. For kids with ADHD, they can’t do half an hour straight of something super focused. They need the opportunity to learn short pieces of work, where they don’t even realize they just learned how to do front squats in a workout.”
Dexter explained how at the end of each class they all sit down to discuss what they did that week and what will be coming in the upcoming weeks. After spending 30 minutes exercising, Dexter said she can see a tremendous difference in their attention spans. “In the beginning, there’s a lot of fidgeting going on, but at the end they are able to sit and really think over what they have just accomplished,” she said.
For a new Coach starting in the kids program, Dexter explained how important it is to realize each child has a mind of its own, and not to get too caught up in ensuring the class goes directly how you had planned for it to.
“A class will never go exactly how you wrote it, and you need to be OK with that,” said Dexter. “You can have a backup plan, but know the kids are going to have a good time. Your ultimate goal is to make sure they are enjoying themselves while learning about fitness.”