The benefits of occupational therapy for children with ADD or ADHD by Pia Seltmann, OTR/L
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may hinder children’s ability to finish assignments, follow and comprehend specific instructions and focus on tasks without interruption.
Occupational therapists can help children and adults to function in their daily occupations and activities. Concerning children, occupational therapists can help them to improve their ability to manage their daily activities, such as playing, going to school, and socializing, which can often be rather challenging.
Children with ADD/ADHD with the help of an occupational therapist, can learn skills to manage their daily activities by implementing structural approaches such as auditory and visual cues and sensory integration to modify their environment with the aim of eliminating noise and distractions.
The Alert Program, also known as “How does your engine run?” is one of several approaches occupational therapists use to treat children with ADD/ADHD. Developed to teach children self-regulation, its ultimate goal is to help children to understand when their engines (the children’s activity level) run too fast or too slow. It uses the analogy of an automobile. “If your body is like a car engine, sometime it runs on high, sometimes it runs on low, and sometime it runs just right”. During this program, children learn three stages: identifying engine speeds, experimenting with methods to change engine speeds, and regulating engine speeds. Visual aids such as a traffic light along with practical instructions are implemented in therapy to make children more aware of the speed of their engine. This program helps children not just self-regulate themselves but also improves self-esteem and self-confidence.
Another program that occupational therapists use to treat children with ADD/ADHD is the Sensory Diet. Designed for children with sensory processing issues, it provides children with sensory stimulations to help them to remain focused and finish their tasks either at home or at school. The diet can include movement activities such as jumping on a trampoline during break time or carrying heavy objects such as books. These activities are easy to incorporate into children’s daily activities at school so that they can stay alert longer and focus on school assignments.
Besides these programs, occupational therapists also address children’s executive functioning. Many children with ADD/ADHD are challenged in their organization, initiation of tasks, transitioning between tasks, problem-solving, and time management. These challenges can be addressed in two ways. The first involves the therapist helping the children by teaching structures and making them more aware of specific issues such as? The second involves working with the family by incorporating routines into daily family activities which emphasize the strengths of the child.
Occupational Therapy is an important aspect of treatment of children with ADD/ADHD and can help raise their self-esteem. Nevertheless, parents can also help their children by doing the following:
- Educating themselves about ADD/ADHD
- Joining a support group for families with ADD/ADHD
- Offering minimal but important feedback for success and failure to reduce anxiety, frustration, and perfectionism
- Being consistent with structures throughout the day, which provides children with guidelines and security
- Providing children with physical activities to meet their activity demand, such as non-competitive activities such as horseback riding, swimming, or martial arts.
- Paying more attention to the child’s strengths as opposed to his/ her weaknesses
For more information please contact Pia Seltmann at firstname.lastname@example.org
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