A few articles I’ve read over the past week interested me, as ADHD is also a topic I’ve always been interested in. Having a SEN-qualification and now going to persue a Masters, I try and read even more -when there is time! I once had a Gr3 boy in my class and immediately recognised the symptoms of ADHD. -This was in my school in South Africa. – My class was near the main entrance of the school where there was a mini-roundabout with a huge tree. Twice per day, I sent Paul [not his real name] to run a few rounds around the roundabout. He usually ran about 5 times around it. Afterwards he wet his face, had some water and could sit for about 5 min in the shade of the tree, before he joined the class again. Through my class window, I could have my eye on him and he really enjoyed this little bit of ‘exercise’. From the start I made it clear to him – and the rest of the class of course, why I would like him to do this. He didn’t see it as a joke and took it very seriously and we could see a big difference in his concentration, quality of his school work and progress. I still treasure his letter he gave me by the end of the year thanking me helping him to do better and to understand his ‘problem’. His parents gave me a mini-grandfather’s clock as a symbol of time, the time I spent to support Paul – and them. Here are three articles I would like to share. The third article is more about outdoor play and nearsightness, but thought to link it here too. I hope you find it interesting and useful to read. All the links, of the original sources, are in the entry too and will open in a new window.
Also on my blog, I have done an entry on Hyperactivity and Dyslexia in 2008 where you will find some more to read and links to follow up, if you wish to do so.
What can athletes with ADHD teach us about the condition?
Michael Phelps, hailed as the greatest Olympian ever, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Can his, and others’, success be used help inspire younger people?
The Guardian, Wed 1 Aug 2012 20.00 BST
One has acquired more Olympic medals than any other athlete in history. The other was knocked out of the Games after just 250 seconds. But Michael Phelps and Ashley McKenzie, the 23-year-old British No 1 judoka, have one thing in common: both have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as does another high-profile Olympian, British gymnast Louis Smith, who this week helped win the first British men’s gymnastics team medal for a century. Suddenly, a condition that is hugely stigmatised and still controversial, is unexpectedly in the spotlight. It raises several interesting questions. Does ADHD hinder or help sporting success? And can the Olympics offer a positive legacy for people suffering from it? Phelps, the American swimmer with a record-breaking 19 Olympic medals to his name, is probably the most famous person in the world with ADHD, the top behavioural disorder in Britain, which is estimated to affect 2-5% of children and young people. For Phelps, a gangly, hyperactive child who was diagnosed with the condition aged nine, the swimming pool was a sanctuary, a place to burn off excess energy. His mother, Debbie, once recalled being told by a teacher: “Your son will never be able to focus on anything.” It’s interesting that the boy who was unable to concentrate at school would sit for four hours at swimming meets waiting to compete in five minutes of races. Louis Smith has spoken of how gymnastics was an outlet for his tremendous energy, and taught him discipline and manners. But Ashley McKenzie’s story is perhaps most dramatic of all. Expelled from three schools and placed in a psychiatric unit aged 11 because his mother was unable to cope, McKenzie also served time in a young offenders’ institute. He credits judo with saving him from prison, and in a recent BBC documentary called it a “mad booster” to his life, giving him “a pavement instead of walking on the road”.
“I don’t want to be looked at as, ‘He’s got ADHD and he’s the bad person.’ I’ve changed now,” he said. But it is not as simple as sport rescuing him. McKenzie served three bans from judo for drinking and fighting, and on the last night of the Team GB training camp before the Olympics, he went out to celebrate his 23rd birthday and told a stranger at a bar: “I’m gonna smash your face in.” His ADHD may bequeath him energy but his sporting career is actually a hindrance to tackling his condition: he cannot take the medication he needs to treat his ADHD because it contains substances banned by the sporting authorities – hence his struggle to control his behaviour. More athletes will almost certainly be undiagnosed or keeping it quiet, such as Adam Kreek, a Canadian rower who won gold in Beijing, and two years later began talking openly about his condition. “I found that the disorder isn’t a negative infliction, but it gives positive energy as well,” Kreek, who is now a motivational speaker, said in 2010. Diagnosed aged six, he believes anyone with ADHD can train their mind to channel their “incredible” energy. As well as a good diet and family support, he found “rowing to be an outlet to control my ADHD”.
ADHD can be a confusing condition because people may be fidgety and unable to focus and yet – as Phelps so spectacularly proved – are capable of concentrating intently on an activity they find rewarding. Children with the disorder, says Andrea Bilbow, founder and chief executive of ADDISS, a charity and support service for ADHD, are often brilliant at computer games. Psychiatrists say that this “hyperfocusing” is a relatively common feature in individuals with ADHD. Athletes like Phelps and McKenzie do not, however, have special powers via their condition. Bilbow believes it is actually significantly harder for people with ADHD to become elite athletes. “Having ADHD doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great sportsperson,” she says. “Your ADHD isn’t going to get you there, it’s hard work that will. ADHD is not a contributor towards success but equally it is not a barrier to success.”
People with ADHD, which is a developmental disorder, may find they have poor problem-solving skills, and struggle with timekeeping, and organising and motivating themselves, explains Bilbow. This may suggest that adapting to the discipline demanded by athletic training is tough for those with ADHD and yet Bilbow believes many with the condition find sport gives them the kind of immediate rewards and sense of achievement they need to build confidence and resilience.
After his early exit in the judo, McKenzie has vowed to come back stronger in Rio in 2016. Bilbow hopes McKenzie can get the extra help he will need in the coming years. She works with parents with children with ADHD and believes more could find sport a constructive way of managing the condition, rather than being preoccupied with academic success. Her two sons, Max and Joe, both have ADHD: Max, who is 29, finds an outlet for his energy in elite kayaking while Joe, who is 25, is currently an Olympic volunteer. Her advice to parents? “Find your child’s island of competence and invest in it heavily.”
Bilbow has noticed that children with ADHD may have their sporting opportunities curtailed as punishment for their behaviour, as McKenzie found. Bilbow knows of a brilliant young footballer with ADHD who was barred from representing his school because of his conduct in lessons.
Many teachers and schools, she believes, still scoff at the disorder, believing there are only naughty children – and bad parents. The concept of role models can seem an overused cliche but the Olympians with ADHD may really inspire a generation of athletes who once would have been written off. “Parents can be saying to kids who are having a miserable time in school, ‘Look, Michael Phelps had ADHD and he worked really hard. Ashley McKenzie has been in a young offenders’ institute but he didn’t give up,'” says Bilbo. “That’s the message we’ve got to give kids.”
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How Exercise Affects the Brain: Age and Genetics Play a Role
ScienceDaily (May 18, 2012) — Exercise clears the mind. It gets the blood pumping and more oxygen is delivered to the brain. This is familiar territory, but Dartmouth’s David Bucci thinks there is much more going on.
“In the last several years there have been data suggesting that neurobiological changes are happening — [there are] very brain-specific mechanisms at work here,” says Bucci, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
From his studies, Bucci and his collaborators have revealed important new findings:
- The effects of exercise are different on memory as well as on the brain, depending on whether the exerciser is an adolescent or an adult.
- A gene has been identified which seems to mediate the degree to which exercise has a beneficial effect. This has implications for the potential use of exercise as an intervention for mental illness.
Bucci began his pursuit of the link between exercise and memory with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), one of the most common childhood psychological disorders. Bucci is concerned that the treatment of choice seems to be medication.
“The notion of pumping children full of psycho-stimulants at an early age is troublesome,” Bucci cautions. “We frankly don’t know the long-term effects of administering drugs at an early age — drugs that affect the brain — so looking for alternative therapies is clearly important.”
Anecdotal evidence from colleagues at the University of Vermont started Bucci down the track of ADHD. Based on observations of ADHD children in Vermont summer camps, athletes or team sports players were found to respond better to behavioral interventions than more sedentary children. While systematic empirical data is lacking, this association of exercise with a reduction of characteristic ADHD behaviors was persuasive enough for Bucci.
Coupled with his interest in learning and memory and their underlying brain functions, Bucci and teams of graduate and undergraduate students embarked upon a project of scientific inquiry, investigating the potential connection between exercise and brain function. They published papers documenting their results, with the most recent now available in the online version of the journal Neuroscience.
Bucci is quick to point out that “the teams of both graduate and undergraduates are responsible for all this work, certainly not just me.” Michael Hopkins, a graduate student at the time, is first author on the papers.
Early on, laboratory rats that exhibit ADHD-like behavior demonstrated that exercise was able to reduce the extent of these behaviors. The researchers also found that exercise was more beneficial for female rats than males, similar to how it differentially affects male and female children with ADHD.
Moving forward, they investigated a mechanism through which exercise seems to improve learning and memory. This is “brain derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF) and it is involved in growth of the developing brain. The degree of BDNF expression in exercising rats correlated positively with improved memory, and exercising as an adolescent had longer lasting effects compared to the same duration of exercise, but done as an adult.
“The implication is that exercising during development, as your brain is growing, is changing the brain in concert with normal developmental changes, resulting in your having more permanent wiring of the brain in support of things like learning and memory,” says Bucci. “It seems important to [exercise] early in life.”
Bucci’s latest paper was a move to take the studies of exercise and memory in rats and apply them to humans. The subjects in this new study were Dartmouth undergraduates and individuals recruited from the Hanover community.
Bucci says that, “the really interesting finding was that, depending on the person’s genotype for that trophic factor [BDNF], they either did or did not reap the benefits of exercise on learning and memory. This could mean that you may be able to predict which ADHD child, if we genotype them and look at their DNA, would respond to exercise as a treatment and which ones wouldn’t.”
Bucci concludes that the notion that exercise is good for health including mental health is not a huge surprise. “The interesting question in terms of mental health and cognitive function is how exercise affects mental function and the brain.” This is the question Bucci, his colleagues, and students continue to pursue.
Source: Please click on THIS LINK to read the original article on ScienceDaily.
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