This is a repost of Angela Keck’s piece in Writer Mom Blog
Even before my son, now 11, was officially diagnosed as having ADD I knew that he had difficulty focusing and staying on task for very long. Like most parents, I wondered where the line was that determined what was typical boy behavior, and what was a problem. Even before the official diagnosis happened I knew that the nightly Taekwondo classes helped him to focus, helped his mood, and helped his confidence in ways that nothing else had ever done.
For a long time I chalked it up to the physical exercise releasing endorphins and improving his mood. I’m sure that definitely plays a part, who hasn’t felt better after going for a walk, or hitting the gym?
Taekwondo Appeals to Him Uniquely
But now I know it’s more than that, I know that the step-by-step instruction that is given in a taekwondo class is exactly the style of instruction that he needs to learn. There’s no long series of instructions given that his ADD/ADHD brain has to try and remember and complete. The instructions are given step-by-step so that he can retain them, mimic them, and succeed.
Now I know that the hyper focused style of martial arts appeals to his ADD/ADHD brain in a way few other things do. I know that the martial arts gives him an acceptable outlet for the aggression he feels from the frustration he encounters throughout his school day.
I know now that because this type of learning is done while being active, and that moving around actually helps his brain focus on what he’s learning.
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From Shy Kid to Leader
When he first started taking Taekwondo he was extremely shy, would have died before he volunteered to lead the class. He wouldn’t even speak directly to the instructor. As I write this post it’s after he has volunteered to lead the class warmup for the last three classes in a row.
He describes it as fun!
After two years of taking classes he is a pre-black belt, in just a few weeks he will test for his black belt at the age of 11 1/2 years old. That’s quite an accomplishment for any child, but for one who has been labeled as ADD/ADHD it feels like an even bigger accomplishment!
What About Homework?
We could have the most epic homework battle, the worst night at dinner ever, and an hour later stepping out of the Taekwondo gym he would be laughing, and smiling, and back to my normal sweet, funny boy.
I often wished that Taekwondo classes happened earlier because I knew that homework would be so much smoother AFTER class than it was before. He could walk into class in the most foul mood you can imagine, and I would be so frustrated with him I’d be on the verge of tears myself! But thirty seconds into class he was focused, cooperative, and never ever got in trouble for not focusing on what the instructor was saying.
If the Taekwondo instructor could teach him reading, math, and social studies it would be a dream come true!
What Taekwondo Teaches Him
That hour during Taekwondo class is an amazing thing for my son. It allows him to leave all his other responsibilities, stresses and frustrations at the door. He can be physically active, he can release aggression through punching and kicking and it’s totally acceptable! He can be completely focused on what’s in front of him and what he’s learning and tune everything else out in the entire world–he doesn’t think about being hungry, he isn’t concerned with what’s happening outside, he is completely focused on what he’s doing.
I believe that learning that focus during Taekwondo has helped him apply focus to school work and other times in his life when he needs to be able to concentrate to succeed.
Taekwondo Helped my ADD Child
Taekwondo has been an amazing blessing to my ADD/ADHD son that I find myself encouraging any parent I meet who has a child with ADD/ADHD or a child on the Autism spectrum that they consider enrolling their child in some form of martial arts.
Deep down I do realize though that martial arts might not be the magic ticket for every child, I believe that a big part of the success has come because this has been something my child has a knack for, an interest in, and because the program he is enrolled in has a clearly outlined and detailed progression plan. Belt tests are scheduled every three months, there is a readily available list of criteria for each belt test. There’s no guessing, or missing pieces, things are clearly outlined for both him and me to follow.
Find a Way For Your ADD Child to Succeed!
So, I won’t push each of you who are reading this who have an ADD/ADHD child to enroll them blindly into martial arts, instead I will encourage you to find something that your child can succeed at, whatever that may be. Music lessons, dance class, martial arts, sports, working with animals. Whatever appeals to your child’s interests, find a program and check it out. You won’t believe the difference it will make!