Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and T'ai Chi
by Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a rapidly escalating problem. Since 1990 in the United States alone, ADD cases increased from 900,000 to over 5,000,000, and since this statistic was recorded may now have risen to high as 3 to 5% of all American children now diagnosed with ADD.

The good news is that T'ai Chi and Qigong may be great therapies for this condition, and since T'ai Chi is increasingly being taught in corporations and schools, many ADD sufferers will find it more and more convenient to incorporate it into their daily lives. Of course, no one should self-diagnose or self-treat but if your doctor isn't aware of the benefits of T'ai Chi you may want to share this information.

Much of the research on T'ai Chi is in the beginning stages in the West, but there is great hope that T'ai Chi can provide a very effective natural adjunct therapy for ADD sufferers. The following is an excerpt from The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong (Macmillan 1999) that illuminates this point:

"T'ai Chi may be a wonderful adjunct therapy for treating ADD because it augments many of the mood-management techniques recommended for ADD sufferers.

"Drs. Edward M. Hallowell, MD, and John J. Ratey, MD, experts on the management of ADD wrote, "Exercise is positively one of the best treatments for ADD. It helps work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way, it allows for noise-reduction within the mind, it stimulates the hormonal and neurochemical system in a most therapeutic way, and it soothes and calms the body."

The slow mindful movements of T'ai Chi have much to offer people who suffer from ADD. The following explains why T'ai Chi may be a perfect ADD therapy:

What Experts Suggest

* Set aside time for recharging batteries, something calm and restful, like meditation

* Daily exercise that is readily available and needs little preparation can help with the "blahs" that occur and with overall outlook.

* Observe mood swings; learn to accept them by realizing they will pass. Learn strategies that might help bad moods pass.

* Use "time-outs" when you are upset or over-stimulated (e.g., take a time-out, go away, calm down).

* Let go of the urgency to always finish things quickly by learning to enjoy the process.

* ADD usually includes a tendency to over-focus or hyper-focus at times, to obsess or ruminate over an imagined problem without being able to let it go

What T'ai Chi Offers

* T'ai Chi is a mini-vacation from the daily "rat race."

* T'ai Chi is easy, requires no preparation, and is a daily mood elevator.

* T'ai Chi is a tool for self-observation of feelings and for letting those feelings go.

* T'ai Chi can be performed at school or work (e.g., in the bathroom), giving you a break from stress.

* T'ai Chi's slow-flowing routine is about "letting go" of outcome and learning to love process.

* T'ai Chi teaches the practice of "letting go" on a mental, emotional and physical level with each exhale.

Note: Teaching T'ai Chi to children with ADD, or to any kids for that matter, is different from teaching adults. Kids' classes move faster and can incorporate calisthenics or other more aerobic exercises to help kids expend energy before slowing down for T'ai Chi movements.

T'ai Chi's benefits are so far-reaching that beyond its potential to help with ADD, it will also improve balance and dexterity. For a developing child, this can be of great benefit as he or she struggles to master sports, or simply to feel "at home" in a continually changing body. Both children and adults with ADD will find a clearer, calmer focus when facing daily challenges at work or at school. Of course, research also indicates immune system responses can improve with T'ai Chi practice as well.

Working with your doctor as a co-partner in your ongoing health strategy is always a powerful combination.

If you're looking for a T'ai Chi school in your area, check the World T'ai Chi & Qigong Association's clearinghouse listing of contacts in 50 countries.

(See www.worldtaichiday.org; the "Find T'ai Chi & Qigong in Your Area" section. Here you can also find the latest in medical research on T'ai Chi.)

Wherever you find your or your child's T'ai Chi instruction, take the time to check out various schools and programs. Make sure the instructor is patient, compassionate, and pleasant. It can be frustrating to learn anything new, and T'ai Chi is no exception. A teacher who can make you or your child feel "at home" and accepted will help tremendously.

It is not recommended to try to get your child to "fit" into an adult T'ai Chi class. Adults are able to handle "slowness" a bit easier than kids. If a local school doesn't offer T'ai Chi for children, you may be able to organize a kids class for them.

Additionally, you might try contacting T'ai Chi schools to see if an instructor (one with patience) would be interested in creating a T'ai Chi class for kids with ADD. If a T'ai Chi teacher is interested, ask your child's doctor to let other parents of ADD sufferers know about it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bill Douglas is the Tai Chi Expert at DrWeil.com, Founder of World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day (held in 60 nations each year), and has authored and co-authored several books including a #1 best selling Tai Chi book The Complete Idiotís Guide to Tíai Chi & Qigong. Billís been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc. You can learn more about Tai Chi & Qigong, search a worldwide teachers directory, and also contact Bill Douglas at http://www.worldtaichiday.org