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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Occupational Therapy for Children With ADHD

The Occupational Therapy Session continued...

During the evaluation, the therapist will look at how ADHD affects your child's:

  • Schoolwork
  • Social life
  • Ability to function at home

The OT will also perform a standardized assessment to check into your child's strengths and weaknesses.

Then the therapist will recommend strategies to address these issues.

During a therapy session, the occupational therapist and your child might:

  • Play games such as catching or hitting a ball to improve coordination
  • Do activities to work out anger and aggression
  • Learn new ways to do daily tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, or self-feeding
  • Try techniques to improve focus
  • Practice handwriting
  • Go over social skills
  • Work on time management
  • Create organizational systems for the classroom and home

Sensory Therapy

The occupational therapist might also test your child for something called sensory processing disorder.

Kids with ADHD sometimes have more trouble than their peers processing sights, sounds, smells, and other stimuli. But there is some debate as to whether this is an actual disorder.

The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that sensory processing problems exist, but does not consider it a separate disorder.

Most people can filter out the screams of a fire engine siren or the sound of a flushing toilet. But for some kids with ADHD, these sights and sounds are an overwhelming bombardment to the senses.

Some kids with ADHD pull away from excess stimulation. Others crave even more. They're the ones who can swing and spin endlessly.

To help ADHD kids who have sensory processing disorder, occupational therapists use a technique called sensory integrative therapy. In this technique, the therapist helps to re-organize the child's sensory system, using:

  • Deep pressure, such as massage or the use of a weighted vest or blanket
  • Rhythmic, repetitive movements such as on a swing, trampoline, or exercise ball
  • Different textures for the child to touch

Sensory therapy can be part of an overall treatment for ADHD that includes medicine and behavior therapy.

The research on sensory processing disorder is still very new. There is some evidence that this technique can help improve behaviors like impulsivity and hyperactivity. But most experts believe occupational therapy is best for help in treating weaknesses in coordination and organization, which are frequently seen in children with ADHD.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Alan G Weintraub, MD on May 03, 2013
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