So there’s an enormously positive drive by British Gymnastics in line with their ‘Gymnastics for All – I’m In’ campaign, to make Trampoline and other Gymnastics disciplines accessible for everyone, regardless of any disabilities they might have. You can find out about what they did in South Africa, watch their new video ‘Disability Gymnastics- A Sport For All‘, or read what I thought was one of the most insightful, inspiring interviews ever, in The Gymnast with Natasha Coates, all round Disability champion who faces phenomenal challenges – and overcomes them in the most extraordinary way! She’s definitely on my Hero Wall…
I’m hoping to do a series of posts as I journey into the relatively unknown sport of Disability Trampoline. I do work with some children with disabilities in a mainstream session and in the past have contributed in a specialist disability environment, but I am by no means an expert! So I’ll be sharing what I learn as I go along. Hopefully you’ll learn just as much as I’m sure I will.
This post covers ADHD, aka Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and specifically how this affects Trampolining for children with this disorder.
As previously mentioned, I’m not an expert, so I went to Susan Hayward, Founder of The Zimbabwe AD/HD Support Group (ZimAD/HA) – set up to help the parents of children with the disorder. Susan has many years of experience with ADHD and helped me to answer the fundamental questions I had.
Firstly: What is ADHD?
SH: “ADHD – Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. It affects up to 10% of children and is determined by assessing levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility. ADD – attention deficit disorder means they are less affected by hyperactivity. ADHD/ADD impacts more than one area of life – home and/or school and/or social and/or work, etc.”
Is there any reason why a child with ADHD can’t learn mainstream trampoline skills such as somersaults?
SH: No reason why not at all. Trampoline and other supervised active sports provide a safe environment for hyperactive children to release the abundant energy they have, whilst also giving them the opportunity to learn valuable life skills such as turn taking, co-ordination and balance, eye-contact and communication skills, body awareness and control, as well as sequencing and spatial awareness.
However teaching these skills may be challenging work and not without hazards! Some ADHD/ADD children can be incredibly impulsive, wanting to bounce all over the place and do their own thing.
The benefit of their boundless energy however means that children with ADHD may not tire as easily, so fatigue towards the end of an hour session and tired muscles may be less of an issue to allow for. That said, the parent or carer will no doubt appreciate having a tired child to take home!
Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the ADHD traits we might see in a trampoline session?
SH: Hyperactivity e.g. abundant energy and the ability to go on and go on.
Impulsivity e.g. random behaviour on the trampoline not necessarily as instructed by the coach, possible experimenting with skills they are not ready for with potentially mixed results!
Distractibility e.g. Looking around and being distracted by anything that moves (people, flapping curtains, unsecured doors, inside or outside the room through windows or open doors); sound – random noises such as the voices of other children or adults or car horns outside, or even an insect bashing itself against a window, etc.
Do gos need to be kept short?
As you would be teaching to the need and ability of the child this is not necessarily a specific consideration. Find a balance between enough but not too much for each child. Enough to train the muscle memory but not too much – they may become more impulsive and distractible (and irritable) when tired.
As a coach are there things we can do to help ADHD/ADD children learn?
Structure, routine and repetition are key to use in training ADHD/ADD children. These three traits work at home and in school too!
Plan lessons with structure, a predictable routine and repetition.
It is also important to find a mechanism to easily get their attention (particularly when they first start) and their distractibility can be used to your advantage. Something such as a soft hand clap, the clicking of fingers or raising an arm above your head can be taught to the child to mean “stop”.
Re-enforce all good behaviour (them doing what you have asked them to do) with lots of praise and treats (such as being allowed to do their favourite exercise or routine, not sugary ones!)
As repetition is good for ADHD/ADD children they may/may not get bored by repeated exercises. But if they do slight changes, even as simple as facing the other way round on the trampoline or variations on a theme of the exercise may help.
A quiet environment where there isn’t too much going on around them with fewer distractions would be beneficial.
The great thing with a sport like trampolining is that you get to work with children on an individual basis, which ADHD/ADD children will enjoy. As each child has varying degrees of hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility they will benefit most from being worked with individually, tailoring teaching and taught skills to suit the severity of the symptoms would be preferable.
When learning a skill for the first time, a one-on-one session may work best, as the fewer distractions the more able this child is at concentrating on you as the coach and the skill being taught.
Special thanks to Susan for her contribution to this article.
Susan is currently teaching Mental Health First Aid skills in the Hampshire and wider area. To find out more or to ask any questions contact her here.
Happy Bouncing! 🙂