Tai Chi & Mindfulness Meditation For The ADHD Child [Benefits Revealed]

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Scientific study reveals significant benefits of tai chi and mindfulness meditation for the ADHD child.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects five per cent of children in the U.S according to The American Psychiatric Association (APA). Thankfullly, research published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics reveals that there could be significant benefits of both tai chi and mindfulness meditation for the ADHD child.

Mindfulness is the simple practice of focusing the mind on the moment in a nonjudgmental fashion.

Tai chi is an ancient Eastern healing practice that incorporates a series of movements performed slowly and mindfully. It is in itself a mindfulness exercise, and there are numerous scientifically proven benefits of tai chi.

Through my own experience as a meditation teacher, I have witnessed firsthand how both tai chi and meditation can improve focus and concentration and reduce hyperactivity. And the latest scientific research backs this.

The study was led by Stewart H. Mostofsky, M.D., director of the Center for Neurodevelopmental and Imaging Research at Kennedy Krieger Institute, and Karen E. Seymour, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study revealed that a mindful-movement based intervention could lead to a significant reduction in the symptoms of ADHD in children. According to Healthline, these symptoms include difficulty finishing tasks (such as homework), trouble waiting in turn, emotional turmoil, and difficulty focusing.

The study highlights that motor control could be a biomarker that might be targeted via an intervention based on tai chi and mindfulness and that this intervention could significantly improve behaviour in children with ADHD.

Lead author Mostofsky states, “The findings from this study provide support for a promising new avenue of behavioural intervention for children with ADHD and related difficulties, with mindful movement practice associated with improved ability to control attention and behaviour. Crucially, the findings also suggest that mindful movement intervention contributes to parallel improvements in motor control, such that motor examination might serve as a valuable biomarker, helping to monitor response to this promising intervention.”

The currently recommended treatment for kids with ADHD includes medication, educational services, counselling, and behavioural therapy, according to the Mayo Clinic. But tai chi and mindfulness could represent an alternative therapy.

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Study on the effects of tai chi & mindfulness meditation for the ADHD child

In the study, a group of participants aged 8-12 years were given twice-weekly 60-minute mindful movement classes for eight weeks. Both before and after this treatment, the participants’ ADHD symptoms were measured using highly-validated tests. Motor control was also assessed via an objective examination of developmental motor signs. After the mindful-movement intervention, participants exhibited significantly improved ADHD symptoms, including reductions in impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity, and improved motor control.  

The study is one of the first of its kind to investigate the effects of tai chi and mindfulness meditation on children with ADHD.

What this means is that parents with ADHD kids could benefit from a mindfulness intervention. So how do you do that?

Tips On Tai Chi & Mindfulness Meditation For The ADHD Child

The study suggests that an eight-week intervention using both tai chi and mindfulness meditation will help children with ADHD.

Essentially, tai chi is a mindfulness practice in which we focus the mind on the slow movements of the body as we progress through various steps, such as “Repulse Monkey” and “White Crane Spreads Its Wings”.

Tai chi is a fairly complicated movement practice that is best learnt with tuition. There are several good Youtube videos that teach kids tai chi. One in particular that I personally rate is Deborah Adams’ Tai Chi For Children, which you can view below.

More Tips:

Make it fun: Kids will engage more if it is fun. Thankfully, tai chi already uses animal names for many of its moves, such as “Repulse monkey”. Kids love animals. Ask your kids to imitate the movements of animals, which will naturally make them more interested. Tell them they are being the monkey when doing Repulse Monkey, or being the crane in “White Crane Spreads Its Wings”. Most kids love animals, so by capitalising on this aspect of tai chi you will find they are more interested.

Do It With Them: One of the great things about tai chi is that everyone can do it. Kids can do it. Adults can do it. And so can the elderly. By practising tai chi with your kids, or getting the grandparents to do so, you can make it more of a family practice.

Tell them there’s been a time paradox! Tai-chi uses slow movements. But if you tell your kids to move slowly, they will feel bored. On the other hand, if you tell them there has been a “time paradox” and that everybody is moving in slow-motion, they will find it much more fun and engaging.

Don’t limit it: Although the study we looked at above was about traditional tai chi, there is no reason to limit yourself to the traditional tai-chi moves. What matters is that kids move slowly and mindfully. You can encourage this with any type of movement. For instance, if your kids have a favourite animal, you can ask them to move like that animal in slow-motion. If they have a favourite character, same thing. The only thing that matters is that they move slowly and mindfully. Perhaps they enjoy a specific sport, like baseball. Great! Get them to perform the various moves they would do in that sport but slowly and mindfully.

When we practice mindful movements like tai chi, we move slowly and consciously. It really doesn’t matter what specific movements we perform. So feel free to play around with the idea of “slow, conscious movement” to find ways to get your kids practising.

There have also been numerous studies showing various benefits of mindfulness meditation for ADHD too. And there are many ways to be mindful, such as with these kids mindfulness activities.

What do you think about tai chi and mindfulness meditation for the ADHD child?

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

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