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Coaching People with ADHD

Tips for including people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in your sessions

ADHD is an impairment of either activity or attention control, or both. Symptoms are usually noticed at an early age and could become more visible when a child's circumstances change, such as when they start school. It is at Primary School that most cases are diagnosed.

It can be challenging coaching children with ADHD, however a little education can go a long way to ensuring those who show symptoms – which include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – have as much fun playing sport and engaging in physical activity as other children.

General characteristics of people with ADHD

  • Inattentiveness – short attention span; extreme distractibility; over-frequent changes of activity; do not appear to be listening when being spoken to directly; and may have poor ability to organise tasks.
  • Hyperactivity – may have excessive movements, especially in situations where quiet and calm are expected; may fidget; and often have difficulty in playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly or competitively.
  • Impulsiveness – may act without thinking and appear thoughtless of rule breaking; has difficulty in waiting their turn; and interrupts/ intrudes on others.

Including people with ADHD in your coaching sessions

  • Be firm with rules, but calm and always have a positive approach.
  • Match your coaching style to your participant’s.
  • Learning style: understand this by speaking to them/their parent/carer prior to the session.
  • Communication style: understand this by speaking to them/their parent/carer prior to the session.
  • Know when to ‘back off’ if the participant’s level of frustration or anxiety begins to peak.
  • Look at the participant when communicating.
  • Strive to have a predictable and organised coaching environment.
  • Provide immediate and consistent feedback regarding positive behaviour.
  • Try to develop a private signal system with the participant to notify them when they are off task or acting inappropriately.
  • When speaking to a group and giving instructions, use the individual’s name to attract attention. (When asking everyone to ‘come here’, some individuals may need you to tell them specifically by name that you mean them too.)

The following information has been written by those with a great deal of experience in this area. The information is provided as guidance only, allowing you to be more informed in your approach to being a more inclusive coach. No two people are the same; as such, please ensure your first step is always to speak to the person – understand their abilities and goals, and never assume.

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Related Resources

  • Coaches Should Nurture Children's Creativity and Imagination

  • Coaching People with Autism

  • Coaching Disabled People: What Coaches Need to Know


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UK Coaching Team