Physical Activity Comes Naturally to Student With ADHD
by Wayne Bartnick, Liam’s dad
Allamanda Elementary School
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
These days, it’s difficult to get kids outdoors and active, with video games and tablets and other electronic distractions. Both of our boys seemed to have a hard time from a young age wanting to walk, instead, preferring to be carried around. Perhaps that’s true of all children, but we’re always trying to find ways to encourage them to be self-reliant, even in walking.
Our seven-year-old son, Liam, attends Allamanda Elementary School near our home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Allamanda is a Health and Wellness Choice School*. I actually attended Allamanda as a child, long before it was a Health and Wellness Choice School, but Allamanda also appeals to us for our children because Liam has ADHD. We believe it’s important that he learn healthy ways to expend and manage his energy, and Allamanda makes health and wellness a core part of the school day. Additionally, the numerous extracurricular clubs and programs that Allamanda offers provide countless opportunities for Liam to discover what he enjoys and works best for him.
When Liam was in 1st grade, the school introduced Friday morning nature walks at Allamanda’s very own on-campus natural area. From the first Friday nature walk we participated in, our family instantly recognized the benefits. Not only did Liam clearly enjoy being out in nature, but he was also able to burn off some extra energy and be ready to start his school day, prepared to learn. I went to work with an increased sense of happiness and well-being. My wife, Jenna, and Liam’s younger brother, Daxton, now walk nearly every day to school to pick up Liam and then all walk home together. The entire family has benefitted by increasing the amount of time we are outdoors and active, even just walking or riding scooters.
In addition to helping Liam with his ADHD, the nature walks have had another benefit for Liam and the community. Liam’s Cub Scout Pack, which I help lead, opted to institute twice-monthly hikes. This created a positive feedback loop, which then inspired Allamanda to offer similar opportunities to all students. Liam also demonstrates the Scouting vision “to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader,” by collecting any trash he finds as he walks.
Thanks to the many programs offered at Allamanda, Liam is also swimming and benefits from yoga balls, standing desks, stationary bikes, and pedal desks in classrooms at school. I’m so glad we’ve made it a priority, at home and at school, for Liam and all of our family to get outdoors and be active. You could say, it comes naturally to us!
*Palm Beach County’s Choice Programs provide a diverse offering of specialty schools in the region. Allamanda became the first elementary school in the county to become a Health & Wellness Choice School and is one of only two grade schools in the county to have a wellness program embedded into its curriculum.