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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Occupational Therapy for Children With ADHD

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 things. 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 doesn’t 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 overwhelm their senses.

Some children with the condition pull away from too much stimulation. Others crave even more. They're the ones who can swing and spin endlessly.

Occupational therapists use a technique called sensory integrative therapy to help kids with ADHD who have sensory processing disorder. In this technique, the therapist helps to reorganize 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
  • Listening therapy to help with sensitivity to sounds

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 new. There is some evidence that this technique can help improve issues like impulsivity and hyperactivity. But most experts think occupational therapy is best for help in treating weaknesses in coordination and organization, which children with ADHD often have.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 12, 2015
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