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gymmum

Proud Parent
I saw an useful discussion on here from 2012 but nothing since. I'd love to hear from anyone experienced with ADHD gymnasts. My daughter is 10 and not medicated. She's training 16-18 hours per week and she does struggle with zoning out. Although she's come a huge way in the past 1.5 years, she's still generally the one in the line mainly focussed on picking her toes or picking the paint off the walls. She was previously kicked out of one gym as they said she took too much coach time and was touching other girls hair and picking them up. In the past she has had issues with cancelling a skill (eg a tuck) half way through (very scary to watch). We seem to have got her out of that habit but I do see her rushing into things like walk overs on beam without any preparation or alternatively over-thinking (eg flic) and becoming paralysed. If we train at home she spends half the time chasing bugs, re-adjusting her leotard, stopping for a snack or disappearing to the toilet. If she she doesn't get a skill quickly she becomes frustrated and wants to give up. She seems to have really good days interspersed with several sub-par days. She's progressing and doing well and I'm proud of her but I cant help observing that it seems significantly harder for her to stay on task than the other gymnasts of similar or lesser ability. I want to ask the coach to avoid waiting time and add fun stuff like small competitions during training but I don't want to tell them what to do either as they don't seem to take that well. Would be so pleased to hear any observations or ideas.
 
I’m not really sure what your question is but here is my experience with my daughter. My daughter is the same age as yours and also has ADHD. Although she could function without medication for school/home one of the main reasons she is medicated is for the gym. My main reason for her being medicated is for safety. Several times when she wasn’t medicated for gym, she came home injured because she didn’t stop to focus before throwing skills. In previous years, she also got in trouble for not being safe in the gym. She has always been fearless for the most part and she needs the medication to help ground her, especially now that she is doing higher level skills. Even when medicated, she still goofs off in practice with her friends. Fortunately for her, she is not on a team that thinks fun shouldn’t be a part of this sport, so as long as she is working she is ok to goof off in between turns.
 
My daughter has ADHD and unfortunately can’t really function without meds. She was diagnosed in 4th grade, was basically failing classes at school, and was held back to repeat level 4 due to focus/attitude despite having skills to move on. After starting medication she quickly moved into advanced math/science, is a straight A student, and jumped to level 7 in the gym the next year. She forgot her meds before a meet last year and fell 3 times during the meet, it was a disaster and luckily she didn’t get hurt. She’s training level 10 now and if she forgets her meds her coach won’t let her on the high beam because she doesn’t trust her not to hurt herself. I wish she didn’t have to be medicated, but it is what it is, and she’s thriving.
 
Wow. Thank you, these are really interesting replies. We have an assessment coming up very soon. Obviously the medication route isn’t appealing but my daughter is also struggling with tests at school. She takes hours to get through tests others finish in an hour and it causes her anxiety. How do you manage appetite issues with meds? Have you experienced negative side effects?
 
I'm an adult with AD(H)D doing gymnastics and I've never had meds (very much don't want them for personal reasons). I'm doing well withouth them, though I also don't train as many hours. I generally try to do do 1.5hrs of gymnastics followed by 1.5hrs of strength training twice a week. and some evenings 1 hr stretching if I can find the space (it's relaxing but we lack room for it).
I wonder a bit more specifically what issues you notice with your daughter. You mention she spends time chasing bugs and readjusting her leotard. When does she do this (during explanation, when she should be doing skills, ...). Is it causing trouble? What kind of trouble. Is she understanding explanations?

I find that taking little moments in between reps isn't per se a bad thing. It prevents overexertion from too many reps in a row causing bad form. It gives the mind a moment to process things. If it's causing problems, you can always look at what specific problems it causes and why. Some stuff I've done (not just with gymnastics but in general)
- sometimes my mind "lags" for a moment as somebody explains sth to me. I just ask them "could you wait a moment? Ok thanks, my mind needed a moment to catch up". Or I ask them to repeat it later. People don't normally mind, especially
- If I need to remember what I need to do, I write it down or have it written down. Recently I helped out at a comp group, and they had long instructions of what they had to do. I'd never be able to remember all that, but there was a list of instructions we read to them. If I'd been a gymnast there, I'd have been checking that list every now and then to know what to do.
This one isn't so much for me but it may be good for your daughter: if she gets distracted before finishing her task, let her keep track of the task and reward herself when finishing. Needs to do 10 casts? Let her count them and check it off as completed when she's done it.

These are just some examples. I think in general when there's an issue with her ADHD, you could try to approach it together with her by looking at 3 things:
1. what's happening? (e.g. I forget to finish my drills because I get distracted)
2. what's the consequence? (e.g. I don't finish my exercise
3. what can we REALISTICALLY do about this? (e.g.: write down what I've done so I don't lose track.)(NOT stuff like: just focus better) realistic means it's something she feels she can achieve. not something other people think she should be able to do.

She may live with some of these challenges for a long time, so she will need to figure out how to deal with them eventually. So long as she's safe, hobbies are a great place to do this I think. Just make sure she gets to lead a bit in this because it's her hobby and it should be fun for her. (And she'll be more motivated if it comes from her). If medication is an option for her then that's great too, I'm just trying to add more ideas for her toolbox in life.

If we train at home she spends half the time chasing bugs, re-adjusting her leotard, stopping for a snack or disappearing to the toilet.
As for this, it did make me wonder why you train at home too and if she's maybe not just having ADHD but feeling a bit pressured or getting a bit burned out. It could be partly avoiding behaviour.
 
Wow. Thank you, these are really interesting replies. We have an assessment coming up very soon. Obviously the medication route isn’t appealing but my daughter is also struggling with tests at school. She takes hours to get through tests others finish in an hour and it causes her anxiety. How do you manage appetite issues with meds? Have you experienced negative side effects?
Why isn't the medication route appealing? I wasn't diagnosed until age 20, and medication was literally life-changing for me. The hardest part was realizing that life wasn't this hard for everyone! I'm not lazy, or stupid, or irresponsible....I have an executive functioning disorder, and my brain needs some artificial norepinephrine because it doesn't make enough. It's not a perfect solution, but I like who I am better when I'm medicated. Food for thought.

Appetite issues: Eat a big breakfast, plan for food after the meds wear off, and Ensure-type shakes for easy calories/ nutrition.

My son was diagnosed a few weeks ago, and his medication appointment is in a week and a half. He's 9. He masks hard at school, but melts down as soon as he gets home, and his impulsiveness really comes out at the gym. His coaches are incredible, but we've discussed how the ADHD is really starting to affect his progress because he doesn't process verbal info quickly enough. Hoping meds help that.
 
Thank you, this is really interesting. I'm not closed to any options but definitely the appetite issues worry me; my daughter is very slim and its already hard to get enough calories into her! My nephew has ADHD and he tried meds and hated them; said they made him feel awful so i guess it depends on the person. I dont know how many differen options there are for kinds of meds?
 

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