When Hannah Jarrett started classes as a high school freshman in Canton, Michigan, it was with more confidence, and a better ability to focus in class thanks to her tae kwon do training. This redheaded 15-year old is training for her black belt and she uses her tae kwon do training to help alleviate the symptoms of her attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, to help her concentrate and to give her self-esteem a boost.
“I learn something different from class every time,” she said. “Learning the different kicks, it helps you memorize things. When it gets in your brain, you kind of memorize things, then it helps you perform, focus.”
The benefits of tae kwon do for children with ADHD and related conditions piqued the interest of Dr. Beth Tarini, a pediatrician and associate professor at the University of Michigan, who is launching a study to see whether this particular form of exercise could be an effective therapy — or even an alternative to prescription medication — for kids like Hannah.
“Parents are starving for alternative treatments, starving for them,” said Tarini. “They want to make sure they can do all they can to help their kids. It could mean less medicine is needed, or it could mean no medicine is needed — it depends on the child and the intervention.”
At least 6.4 million U.S. children — about 11% — have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a condition that is marked by distractability and lack of focus, an inability to control impulses, and in some cases, hyperactivity, among other things.
And the number of kids being diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S. is rising at a rate of about 5% a year, the CDC reports.
Prescription drugs like Ritalin, Adderal and Strattera can be effective treatments for some children, but others cannot tolerate their adverse effects, which can include addiction, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, heart palpitations and even psychosis. The medications also are controlled substances.
Hannah tried Strattera when she was 8, and it almost sent her into cardiac arrest.
“Hannah had three open-heart surgeries by the time she was 2 to correct congenital defects within her heart,” said her mother, Lynn Jarrett, explaining why medication wasn’t a good option for her daughter.
But by the time Hannah was in third grade, she had such a hard time concentrating, following directions and doing her homework, her parents had to try something else. They learned about whole-brain exercises, took Hannah to physical and occupational therapy, but it was of little help.
“I was talking with a friend, who got their son involved in tae kwon do years ago because they couldn’t do the medication route,” Lynn Jarrett said. “And doing more research…I thought, well… we’ll give it a shot and see how she does.”
Within two months of starting 45-minute classes two days a week, the Jarretts noticed improvement in Hannah’s ability to tune out distractions and finish homework assignments.
“It’s loud, and you still have to focus on the teacher,” said Hannah’s father, Jon Jarrett, of the classes. “When you see the new kids, it’s just like sensory overload; they can’t handle it almost at first. But once they get into it, they can start weeding out the noise and focus.”
Lynn Jarrett said that’s helped Hannah academically.
“It boosted her grades at school considerably,” she said. “She finished her middle school career at 3.5 GPA.”
Pediatrician Intrigued By Positive Impacts of Tae Kwon Do
When the Jarretts told Tarini, Hannah’s pediatrician, about the benefits she seemed to be getting from tae kwon do, Tarini was intrigued.
“I saw an opportunity to potentially fill a gap, and see if what seems to be going on or what is perceived to be going on could truly be efficacious, or effective,” Tarini said.
(Photo Credit: Ryan Garza)
Through their training in tae kwon do children can learn focus and attention, confidence and greater overall fitness.
Master Dan Vigil in Northville, Michigan said, “People all over the country get good results with their ADD from doing martial arts. Every martial arts school knows it. We all know it. The kids that go through it and the parents all know it. “The idea that we can quantify what happens and how it happens, and then ultimately have it be a treatment that can be prescribed by a doctor, and covered by insurance, non-pharmacological, it’s huge.”
Dr. Tarini has applied for grants and secured funding for a medical study to obtain empirical data that suggests and supports that tae kwon do is an effective non-pharmaceutical therapy for ADHD. Children in the study will commit to six months of tae kwon do training to effectively study the academic, behavioral and emotional benefits.
Want Your Child to Experience The Benefits of Tae Kwon Do?
Master Yoo’s World Class Tae Kwon Do opened in Noblesville, Indiana in 2006. His goal was not to prepare kids for competition, but to give them life skills that would benefit them throughout the course of their entire lives. During his 20+ year martial arts career, he’s successfully helped thousands of students of all ages reach their goal of obtaining a black belt in tae kwon do and in the process, transformed their ability to focus, improved their self-confidence, strengthened their social skills and ability to form life-long friendships and improved their overall health and fitness levels.
If you’re interested in experiencing the benefits of tae kwon do training, get started today with the quick start trial offer, or call us at 317-706-8800 for more information.