For children diagnosed with ADHD, there can be a number of treatment options including medication and some form of psychotherapy. Another treatment option that is often overlooked is occupational therapy (OT).
What is Occupational Therapy?
An occupational therapists typically has a master’s degree, are certified in their field and licensed in the state where they practice. They might work in a hospital, clinic, or private practice. Some occupational therapists are based at a school.
They help kids with ADHD in several ways:
- Improve executive function skills – e.g., planning, prioritizing and focusing
- Physical coordination
- Performing everyday tasks like taking a shower or making their bed quickly and well
- Control their impulsiveness and hyperactivity
- Cope with sensory issues
Ultimately, the primary goal of the occupational therapist is to enable kids with ADHD to participate in the activities of everyday life. Their work can focus on two types of strategies:
- Remedial strategies – These aim to restore an impaired capacity.
- Adaptive strategies – These modify routines and habits, or teach skills to cope with difficulties.
The OT Session
The initial OT session will generally consist of an evaluation to determine how ADHD is affecting your child’s home life, social interactions and schooling. The therapist may conduct tests to determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses in certain areas. Follow-on sessions may include:
- Playing games, such as catching or hitting a ball to improve physical coordination
- Activities to work out anger and aggression
- Learning new ways to do daily tasks like brushing teeth, getting dressed, or feeding themselves.\
- Techniques to improve focus and concentration
- Reviewing social skills
- Work on time management
- Setting up ways to stay organized
- Using sensory therapy to help them better process sights, sounds, smell,etc. without becoming overwhelmed
The mix of activities will depend on the child’s area of greatest need.
OT at Home
Unfortunately, occupational therapy may be out of reach for many children due to location, cost, or lack of school services. This is especially true in our COVID constrained world. For these kids, there are OT-designed exercises that parents can use to help their ADHD child build executive functions, encourage independence, and improve academic and social performance. Here are some you can use, recommended by Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L.