Parks and Recreation Programming Opportunities for ADHD Youth

Written by CivicPlus

As a park and recreation leader, ensure your activities are organized inclusively to serve the needs of all young community members—including those with ADHD.
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According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 6.1 million American children between ages 2 to 17—9.4 percent—have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This reality means that nearly ten percent of the youth participating in your leagues, classes, activities, and sporting events may face challenges learning and engaging in the world around them due to the realities of this complex but common neurodevelopmental disorder. As a park and recreation leader, ensure your activities are organized inclusively to serve the needs of all young community members—including those with ADHD.

Having a creative assortment of activities will be pertinent in ensuring that youth are excited to maintain involvement and make choices that align with their interests and capabilities. Therefore, park and recreation departments should offer physical, creative, and performance activities for youth to truly work with and empower the young people in the community.

Physical Engagement Activities for ADHD Youth

Many activities that can be enjoyable for youth living with ADHD can be physical activities that allow them to exercise, run free, and experience their autonomy through movement. For example, hiking and backpacking can give ADHD youth a chance to explore and run while keeping their mind stimulated with bright foliage, the sound of birds, and the smells of nature. In addition, team-based activities such as basketball, baseball, and hockey are likely already part of your seasonal catalog. By simply including in your activity descriptions that these sports are well-suited for children with ADHD, you’ll show parents searching for ideal activities for their kids that your department understands and supports their child’s needs.

Performance Activities for ADHD Youth

Performance arts often engage youth while teaching valuable skills such as maintaining a commitment to a project, expanding knowledge, and cultural awareness. Strategically partner with community creatives, artists, and theaters looking to develop the next generation of thespians in your community. Helping youth learn dynamic ways to express themselves can serve as an empowering mode of engagement for children with ADHD. Performance arts that require learning lyrics or scripts can help children that often struggle to focus gain needed confidence that will manifest in the classroom and other facets of their lives.

Creative Activities for ADHD Youth

Art classes give children the freedom to express themselves without limits or boundaries. Hand painting, charcoal drawing, watercolor, and other creative classes may appeal to children who struggle to follow linear directions allowing them to take their visual creations wherever their mind takes them.

Final Words of Advice

Parks and recreation departments have an opportunity to play a formative role in helping develop youth as dynamic leaders that can become community-oriented for their future success. Make sure to diversify program options that would happen in person with online alternatives because while we work, we are still in a public health crisis—and safe engagement is the best engagement.