Saturday, September 23, 2017

Boating with ADHD

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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For a boater with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), safety is the first consideration.

According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, “ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors… important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills.” Diagnosis of ADHD will be made by a physician; treatment may include medications, education, training, and counseling. These treatments relieve many of the symptoms but don’t cure the syndrome.

Before going boating, discuss with the doctor or pharmacist as to whether side effects of prescribed medication may include vertigo or nausea — on land these can be upsetting, and on the water these conditions can become exaggerated and disorienting. If you get the all clear, bring along enough medication to keep the person on routine, and have extra in case a return to shore is delayed.

People with ADHD may be inattentive, hyperactive, and/or impulsive. The syndrome may make it difficult for them to focus on safety instructions, follow through on tasks, remember rules, listen, and obey orders in an emergency. Therefore, it’s important to master specific skills before getting out on the water so the person doesn’t jeopardize his or her safety and spoil the enjoyment of boating for others.

Rules of the boat must be explained before you go boating and again when you’re aboard. If the captain isn’t a person very familiar to the ADHD boater, first ease any social anxiety between them. Then explain how important it is to come to attention and focus whenever the captain gives an order. Ask the captain to use the same words every time he or she is giving a command, such as “Listen up!” or “Pay attention!” Rehearse these words with the person with ADHD and act out what you’d like him or her to do when she hears the words — take your hand, sit down, or whatever you and the captain decide is best.

When boating with someone with ADHD, take extra precautions. Boating should never be a one-on-one situation with a child, as someone needs to look out for the youngster while another handles the boat. In the case of a kid with ADHD, the person watching must be confident and agile enough to handle situations such as running on slippery surfaces, attempting to jump overboard, misusing equipment, pushing and shoving, and anything else that might arise. Discuss how to set rules, limits, and boundaries ahead of time with a trained professional.

Well-fitting life jackets are a necessary for everyone. A person with ADHD should become familiar with a life jacket before getting on the boat. As some jackets can be bulky, wearing one around the house until it stops being unfamiliar is key.

When you take a person with ADHD on his or her first boat ride, make it a short one under comfortable weather conditions. Stay in a protected harbor or cove within sight of land. Gradually increase the time aboard, but keep a cap on wind and sea conditions — the calmer the waters, the less chances for changes in the captain’s orders or unexpected scenarios.

Those with ADHD may prefer doing things alone. They aren’t used to the group settings required when captain and crew must work together. Again, preparation is key for learning how to curb impulses and participate in group activities. Boating families may want to consider a camp that emphasizes group water activities for children with ADHD such as Camp Starfish. It provides a safe and fun therapeutic experience for children who are unable to find success in more traditional environments. One camp program, Beachcombers, enables teens to challenge themselves with activities including rafting, canoeing, swimming, and kayaking.

Programs such as Camp Starfish and other organized activities that familiarize would-be boaters with water safety and a love of being outdoors help instill the life and coping skills needed aboard a boat. These lessons should be enforced before going boating and again offshore in order to keep the person with ADHD safe while having great fun.

For information on Camp Starfish:


By Jennifer Pollock


is a writer and editor who writes about health, nutrition, boating, arts and entertainment, and water sports. Her hobbies include travel, water sports, and boating, which she has loved since she was a young child.

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