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Outdoor activities for kids with ADHD and autism

For children with ADHD, autism and other neurobehavioral issues (such as Tourette’s and dyslexia), it is crucial that parents take advantage of the summer break to help their kids continue to build upon the skills they developed during the school year.

Building a treehouse

Contributed by Dr. Robert Melillo

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11 percent of school-age children have received a medical diagnosis of ADHD and one in every 50 kids has an autism spectrum disorder.

Instead of staying indoors, the warmer months provide families with the opportunity to do outdoor physical activities that are simultaneously skill-building and enjoyable. To help children build skills without feeling like they are doing work, the following are some examples of outdoor activities we recommend to parents in our Brain Balance Achievement Centers.

Build things together

Summertime is a great opportunity for families to work together in building something, such as a tree house. Working on physical projects is great for children with behavioral and learning disabilities because it helps develop cooperation and social engagement. Painting and playing with clay is great because it strengthens the abstract element of the right brain that needs developing.

Tap into your musical skills

In a group setting, have the kids create something original, whether it be a song, a rap, a dance or a story. Work together and build off of one another’s ideas. Children with ADHD are left brain heavy, which means they naturally rely on analytics and numbers rather than descriptors and abstract ideas. This will help broaden their imaginative scope.

Create a world of water

If you visit the local pool, chances are you might hear kids chanting “Marco” and “Polo.” This game is perfect for children with behavioral and learning disabilities because it strengthens both spatial awareness and auditory skills while interacting with others. Other beneficial water activities include playing on a slip ‘n slide, waterskiing and surfing.

Pull out the chalk

Encourage children with behavioral and learning issues to create a hopscotch with the chalk. This sort of jumping, cardiovascular activity is great for building muscle tone, which most kids with ADHD lack, and is also typically social. Children can get their creative juices flowing by singing an original song together along the rhythm of the hops.

Be creative at the park

“Simon Says,” “Red Light, Green Light” — these types of mimicking games are great because they’re nonverbal, physically active, and require periodically inhibiting a response, which is an area of difficulty for children with behavioral and learning disabilities. This game entails paying close attention and draws on social cues, as well as concentration.

While we live in a society of technology, it is important for parents to use summertime as an opportunity to get their kids outdoors and away from technology, remembering that physical activity is vital to the support of a healthy, balanced brain.

About the Author

Dr. Robert MelilloDr. Robert Melillo is a researcher, professor, lecturer, bestselling author, creator of the Brain Balance Program, and co-founder of Brain Balance Achievement Centers. Since 2006, Brain Balance Achievement Centers has helped thousands of children between the ages of 4 and 17 reach their, academic, social and behavioral potential through a drug-free program. The individualized and customized program utilizes sensory motor, cognitive exercises and nutritional guidance to address the root cause of most neurobehavioral issues. Dr. Melillo has been helping children overcome learning disabilities for more than 20 years. His areas of expertise include Autism spectrum disorders, PDD/NOS, ADD/ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, bipolar disorder, and other attention, behavioral and learning disorders.

Dr. Melillo and his research partner Dr. Gerry Leisman are considered two of the world’s leading experts and pioneers in the area of functional disconnection and its relationship to neurobehavioral disorders. Dr. Melillo is the author of the textbook Neurobehavioral Disorders, as well as six chapters in other textbooks and many scientific papers. He is also the author of 3 bestselling books: Disconnected Kids, Reconnected Kids and Autism, and The Scientific Truth of How To Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Autism Spectrum Disorders and What Parents Can Do Now. For more information, visit

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