Benefits of hiking on ADD/ADHD
In my early 20’s, I was a Houseparent for a boarding school for rural WA primary school-aged children with Attention Deficit Disorder. The school was well equipped and supported by talented and caring teachers and a Psychologist. Medication such as Ritalin and Dextroamphetamine work positively and occasionally the negative side effects. Constantly I thought of ways I could introduce different activities that would work together with the other methods. I introduced meditation before bed. This had a positive effect on kids who often struggled to keep still for 10min let alone 20 – 30 min during a guided meditation. I remember at the beginning I had to give it another name because some parents refused to allow the word spirituality into their kid’s lives.
I would occasionally challenge the expected
It was also my responsibility and pleasure to take the kids out on the weekends in the school bus. I wanted to take them somewhere outdoors. An activity that was fun and free so I could continue to bring them there without financial restraints. I would occasionally challenge the expected and get them to do short and distinctive tasks out of their comfort zone but was always fun to see how each child would react. I was almost always pleased I did it because of the sheer pleasure they had from achieving or simply participated in something they normally wouldn’t get to do because they had ADHD.
We often overprotect our kids and ourselves because it is too risky. It is much safer on the surface to allow our kids to stay inside and play video games than in the park or is it?
I am not an expert in Attention Deficit Disorder. But one area that the kids struggle with is being present, to concentrate on what is happening at that moment and then to plan a little into the future, a reason why the classroom can be a challenge
The greatest gift hiking gives you is the ability to be present
I believe hiking and spending time in nature is an incredible way a child will learn to become present and concentrate on what is happening to them and around them at that moment. Planning a little way into the future by following a trail and markers. Recognizing real consequences for not being present and with guidance can be encouraged to hike their own hike.
It benefits both the child who is seen as hyperactive and withdrawn. It is amazing how I have seen hiking bring something out of the quiet reserved child. This happens naturally without even me saying a word. I am there to establish a space where they feel safe enough to take small risks that they choose. That space is then encouraged to expand naturally as the child’s confidence grows. It is exactly how I mentor anyone who wants to learn how to solo hike.
It is not simply the act of walking they benefit from but the environment they are in. The green, the trees and wildlife; a running river and solitude. The ability to observe their own bodies and feel and act on a hot spot before it becomes a blister and to deal with it, learn to ask for help.