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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Can ballet help with ADHD?


myrrha

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My 11 yo DD really has a hard time focusing in school. I've always thought that she had some form of ADHD, when she was 6 we had her tested by a child psychologist but she said she didn't think she had it. But, at her last doctor's appointment (she has a new pediatrician) the doctor brought up the subject with us, she gave us a questionaire to fill out and most of the tendencies seemed to fit my DD. I think I will have her tested again for ADHD, but if it turns out she does have it, I don't want to turn to medication.

 

At my DD's old ballet school, my DD never had to focus for long periods of time b/c her teacher (also the SO) would constantly flit in and out of class and the kids would mainly fool around during class. That is the main reason we left. In the new school, class is run how it should be, they do technique for the whole time with the teacher's full focus. Anyone who fools around even a little is told to sit out.

 

I'm really hoping that this type of environment will help my DD learn how to focus herself. I hear so many good things about how a lot of ballet dancers do so well in school b/c they are so focused and organized.

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My DD has add. She has been training lots of hours in something (first gymnastics, then comp dance, now ballet) since age 6 and her add has not been a problem in activities. We started medication at 9 (4th grade work is a leap academically and she just couldn't do school without it) and while trying different Meds did take it weekends, when she had practice. Normally it was worn off by evening practices. Anyway, it never failed the coach would remark how incredible she was that day, medicated, so it had an effect for practice...but she was/is really good without it so we never medicated her purposefully for practice/class, just schoolwork. She seriously can barely read without medication for school, but can do hours of focused physical activity. I wouldn't say it helps with add, but physical activities requiring focus are not nearly as difficult for her as non physical ones. I do think being good at something helps tremendously- academics are a struggle for her, but her success in physical activities helps her self esteem not suffer. So that is a huge benefit for us.

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My eldest child (14, non dancer) has ADHD. As it was explained to our family, the "hyperactivity" component is a mental not a physical manifestation. He has ALWAYS done really well with any physical exercise (except baseball, too much standing around!) He did dabble in dance as a small child but now chooses to participate in theater and martial arts. He is excellent in both disciplines. Now, granted his symptoms are on the milder side and he only takes a small amount of meds during the school day for class. I am of the belief that if he were more active during the school day we might be able to forego the meds completely! And I agree, it is a HUGE boon for him to be "good" at something!

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The thing is with my DD she has never had any problems focusing during dance class. As I had said, when the teacher was just teaching technique, she would usually walk in and out of class so the kids would fool around when she wasn't there. But, the teacher also mainly focused much of the year on learning dances for the performances, spending most of class time learning routines instead of doing technique. That was the part my DD loved, she really did well learning routines. The last recital she was in, she had 5 dances and she had no problem remembering them. Does her ability to remember dances mean that she can focus if she wants to?

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I was told physical activities are typically easier than non physical activities as far as focus goes. It is certainly true for my DD. She did get some benefit to being medicated for practice, but it was negated by feeling "dull" and she feels she cannot be artistically expressive while medicated. So the small benefit in performance (her tosses improved) was canceled by the lack of artistry (always her strongest suit in gymnastics).

 

It does not mean they "can" focus if they "want" too at all, they are different areas of the brain. We managed for a while to do schoolwork on a bouncy ball for a seat, jumping while spelling, etc, and that movement plus study did help...but eventually, not enough.

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We went to an MD who specialized in ADHD treatment and diagnosis. This was after asking the "experts" at school repeatedly and receiving an answer "your son is a pleasure in class" Of course he was! He was zoned out most of the time or reading a book! It was not cheap. Generally these kinds of Drs do not accept insurance. I highly recommend you try this route. There is so much misinformation out in the world regarding ADD/ADHD that much of the wrong info is repeated as fact by people we trust (school guidance, articles in parenting magazines etc.) We learned the hard way that you really need a medical expert. And remember EVERY KID IS DIFFERENT! LOL I will say that my ADHD child has never had a problem remembering complicated blocking in the theater, martial arts or even choreography. In my personal experience, my ADHD son can focus extremely well as long as he is stimulated; he suffers when the subject manner is too one dimensional (like listening in class and taking notes).

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The "upside" of ADHD is something called "hyperfocus." If something really interests them, these kids are able to apply a high degree of focus. My own ADHD DD zones out at school, forgets and loses things constantly, yet can remember choreography she has seen once or performed years ago. She also has no trouble focusing in ballet class (without medication).

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