Neurodivergent recreation

We often find that it’s not what children and teens learn in school that counts, but what they learn out of school.

If parents are passionate about sports, they could introduce their children to sport. Some families live in a religious tradition, or serve others as volunteers – if you do that, then take the kids along. My friend’s family has a history of playing board games together and she has been introducing the games she played as a child to her own children. In our family it’s books, and music and TV. What family traditions do you have?

Neurodivergent people are usually seen as creative, and sports are a good way to burn off excess energy, as well as keeping fit. Basically, any hobbies and sports may be suitable and the best ones vary according to the individual.

Morning exercise

Can children or adults exercise before school or work – or walk the dog? Walking or riding a bike to school helps with fitness and makes it easier for some children (those with ADHD, for example) to concentrate. They can certainly play sport after school / work or use a trampoline in the garden.

A recent study found that 30 minutes of exercise before school can help kids with ADHD focus and manage moods.
Daily exercise ideas for children with ADHD. Find out more here.

Playtime for children

  • Try play therapy with your children. Find out more here.
  • Children enjoy diving hands first into play experiences. Completing the tasks of building blocks, working a puzzle, and drawing pictures will yield skills that the child will use throughout his lifetime. A toy that can be used in many ways and those that activate more than one sense will automatically be more enjoyable. Multi-sensory means that more pathways to brain development are opened and used. Find out more here.
  • Board Game suggestions for kids with Dysgraphia – Boggle, Bananagrams, Storycubes, and Pictionary (especially when a whiteboard and large marker is used) – and so many more great suggestions. Find out more here.

More schools are including exercise in their curricula to help kids do better in the classroom. A school in Colorado starts off students’ days with 20 minutes of aerobic exercise to increase alertness. If they act up in class, they aren’t given time-outs but time-ins — 10 minutes of activity on a stationary bike or an elliptical trainer. “The result is that kids realize they can regulate their mood and attention through exercise,” says Ratey. “That’s empowering.” Find out more here.

In the UK many schools do the Daily Mile – and Belgium has now joined this initiative. Find out more here.

An excellent article about the book “Developing Recreation Skills in Persons with learning disabilities”, by Lorraine C. Peniston, explains why it’s useful for children and adults who have learning disabilities to also take the time to pursue leisure activities. There is also in-depth information on many different types of learning disabilities, and how they (as well as executive function difficulties) can cause interference with recreation. Conditions include dyscalculia, dyslexia, auditory acuity difficulty, auditory-vocal association problems, auditory memory deficit and auditory sequencing problems. Also, auditory and visual over-stimulation, cognitive disorganization, Crossing the Midline and Directional Problems. Disinhibition. Intersensory Problem. Short-term Memory Problem. Visual Acuity Problem. Poor Visual Coordination and Pursuit. Visual Figure-Ground Differentiation Problem. Visual-Motor, Spatial-Form Manipulation Problems. Cognitive leisure checklist. Find out more here.

Chess and ADHD, autism, learning difficulties

This organisation encourages the use of chess as a tool for therapeutic and educational purposes, especially targeting people diagnosed with ADHD, as well as other groups with learning difficulties or autism.

“We offer these groups different Chess based tools, specifically prepared to train and work directly stimulating certain cognitive abilities, such as concentration, memory, attention, spatial visualization, abstract reasoning and making of decisions. The methodology developed also helps to generate healthy habits and adapts to the real abilities of the students.” Find out more here.

Jonass (Flemish Autism group)

“Wij zijn een vereniging voor jongeren met autisme. Maandelijks organiseren we diverse activiteiten die je kan terugvinden in onze activiteitenkalender. Jaarlijks gaan we ook op zomerkamp.” Find out more here.

Sports are often recommended for people with ADHD and lots of energy to burn off. Michael Phelps’ mother directed his excess energy into swimming and he went on to become an Olympian. Do girls with ADHD benefit more from sports than boys do?

Athletics events give your child an opportunity to improve themselves without always competing with other children. Different events provide variety for children who are easily bored and different skills are required such as running, jumping and throwing. Track and field events are an effective way to encourage discipline, pacing and routine.

Top 5 Sports for Autism + Dyspraxia –
Hiking * Bowling * Swimming * Horse riding * Martial arts

Sports―such as archery, martial arts, swimming, diving, and ballet―that focus on mastering individual skills are particularly good for children affected by ADHD. When a child with ADHD is active in a sport (especially if the sport has a feeling of controlled risk or excitement to it, such as rock wall climbing, horseback riding, or martial arts, it can help her develop a better ability to focus and sustain attention in other areas of life, suggests Debbie Crews, PhD, of Arizona State University. Find out more here.

Martial Arts are indoor sports, so not weather dependent. Good for moving different parts of the body and for self-defence. Helps to promote focus and concentration, and to learn self-discipline.

Children with ADHD do better when they get plenty of individual attention from coaches. They are more likely to succeed with individual sports such as wrestling, swimming and diving, martial arts, and tennis — or even more rarified endeavors such as fencing and horseback riding. Find out more here.

Dyslexia and Sports : How Cognitive Issues Can Lead to On-Field Achievements. Find out more here.

“My On-Court Advantage: How Tennis Shaped My ADHD Resilience.” By Rudraksha Rishi Mitra. Find out more here.

While individual sports may provide certain benefits for kids with ADHD, there are still some team sports that they may enjoy playing. If an athlete with ADHD would like to play team sports, “Basketball, hockey and soccer are sports where the athletes are almost always moving and there’s very little idle time,” Dr. Pollack explains. “That constant motion provides a good outlet for the athletes to use their energy, and having less idle time, means they are less likely to become distracted.” Find out more here.

Baseball as an ADHD team sport

Find out more here.
When helping your child to choose a sport, look at how dyslexia may affect his or her own learning style, strengths, and weaknesses. Shawn tried karate for a while, but discovered that hand-eye coordination problems made that activity difficult for him. Amy finally settled on swimming as her favorite sport, and the one at which she excelled. “I was good at listening to and applying the things my coaches said. If they said ‘hold your elbows this way’ I did it—and remembered it each time. Also,” she laughs, “in a swimming pool with clearly marked lanes, you always know exactly where you’re supposed to be!” Find out more here.

Yoga and Dancing


The Importance Of Art And Music For Autistic People. Find out more here.

Treating ADHD With Video Games

Article from 2011 – studies have shown that playing video games may actually be beneficial. The idea that video games can be effective in treating ADHD is centered around a relatively new treatment called neurofeedback. In neurofeedback, a patient is asked to focus on a monitor or television screen while electrodes are placed on his or her scalp. Find out more here.


Neurodivergent Books and Authors. Find out more here.


Julie Anne

Rhi Lloyd-Williams 

Rhi Lloyd-Williams is a poet, playwright, essayist, educator and public speaker. She also runs the Community Interest Company, Autact CIC, and wrote the award-winning play, The Duck, which shares how her autism has affected her. She sees communication as her one true passion.
Autism and Expectations – De-Mystifying Autism



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