As a kid I played organized sports, so part of the excitement of being a new father was anticipating watching my son play sports and even coaching him. This happened, but not as smoothly or effortlessly as I anticipated. The introduction of special needs and the child’s individual interests into the equation complicates life and requires modifications in expectations.
I pledged that I would not be one of those overbearing dads who forced sports onto his son. Neither would I be one of those dads who structured sports training programs for their sons that resembled Marine Corps boot camp. And I haven’t—I wanted to introduce my son to the positives of sport. My son has had obvious developmental delays and awkwardness since around the age of one to two. I wanted to introduce Andrew to sports at the appropriate age when his peers were being introduced to sports, as possible options for him to explore.
It took me awhile to understand the tremendous physical and mental effort it took for Andrew to participate in these activities, which did not come naturally. We first tried soccer—it didn’t work. My wife and I had met skiing, so we tried skiing lessons for several years. We stopped skiing after Andrew asked us, “Why do you put me through this?” Andrew tried karate, but didn’t like it. We tried baseball. Andrew liked baseball, but when it turned to kid pitch, he asked to stop playing. He still liked the design and flow of the game, however. We tried basketball and he liked it (Andrew is on the tall side). What made all these sports possible was a policy and practice within our community of residence: Every kid up to the age of 14 who wants to play, plays—and plays equally. Most of the coaches (but not all), most of the parents (but not all), and many of the kids (but not all) support this policy and encourage the kids who are not quite as skilled. Andrew was blessed with several good basketball coaches and I was able to serve as the assistant coach. It was a positive and enjoyable experience for both of us.
While baseball was a challenge for Andrew as a player, he has developed into a knowledgeable and interested fan. During the past few years we have bonded by attending baseball games together and keeping informed about the game. So, while my original hopes did not come through, other enjoyments and bonding experiences did occur. We rarely leave a baseball game early, for as a friend of mine reminds us, “You never know.” You try. You see what sparks an interest. You stay patient, flexible, and supportive. You build on the positives. At Andrew’s high school, he is required to participate in sports programs of his choice. While a great challenge, he also enjoys it. And he is healthier for it.
For many children with AD/HD, it seems that the mother is the key figure in their child’s life. On October 23, 2007, the AD/HD program at the University of Buffalo’s Center for Children and Families issued a press release, “Getting Fathers Involved in Children's ADHD Treatment Programs: Sports Element in COACHES Program Improves Dads' Participation, Relationships with Children.” For many fathers and sons, participation in sports at all levels can build a positive relationship.
During the past several months, CHADD has received letters of frustration from parents whose teen or young adult child was excluded from a non-school organized sports program because they were taking medication for the treatment of AD/HD. A former U.S. Olympic athlete contacted us regarding his dismissal for use of stimulant medications. These requests and recognition of the value of participating in sports encouraged the CHADD board of directors to adopt a statement of issues, considerations, and philosophy when thinking about children under medical treatment and their participation in organized sports programs.
Sport is a vehicle for building relationships and promoting good health. It may be an appropriate vehicle for some. CHADD advocates that anyone properly diagnosed with and treated for AD/HD is assured participation in their sport of choice.