ADHD occupational therapy

Can Occupational Therapy Help Kids With ADHD?

Historically, children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) have been treated with medications like Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexadrine. But while these medications can be effective for some kids, they can also have significant adverse side effects. For many kids, occupational therapy can be an effective, holistic alternative, if not a complement, to the use of medications for kids with ADHD. (As always, it’s important to talk to your child’s doctors before making any decisions pertaining to medication.) 

Specifically, research published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that kids with ADHD who were treated with alternative interventions such as a method known as “Cog-Fun” were effective in helping them to lead functional lives in school, home, and other environments of daily living.

What is ADHD?

If you’re reading this, you’re likely aware that ADHD is a condition diagnosed when there is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity interfering with function or development. It’s generally considered a neurological disorder, impacting a person’s executive functions (cognitive skills), emotions, and behavior – impeding developmental progress, academic success, and relationship building.  People with ADHD struggle to remember, plan, and regulate their emotions.

It is often (but not always) diagnosed in childhood and lasts into adulthood. There’s no “cure,” but there are treatments – which will differ for children compared to adults

How is ADHD Treated With Occupational Therapy

Early intervention for kids with ADHD requires inter-disciplinary collaboration from parents and caregivers, teachers, and therapists. Cognitive behavioral interventions -treatment that involves efforts to change thinking patterns – is recommended, the earlier the better. That’s because children’s neuro pathways have yet to form and/or become rigid.

Our occupational therapy team can help facilitate cognitive behavioral interventions by helping kids:

  • Learn to recognize their own thinking distortions that may be creating problems & learn how to re-evaluate them realistically.
  • Gain a greater understanding about the motivation and behavior of others.
  • Exercise problem-solving techniques to help kids cope with tough situations.
  • Embrace a greater sense of confidence in their own abilities.

The AJOT study focused on ADHD patients’ deficits in executive function – which involve things like memory, planning, and emotional regulation. The OT intervention that’s been studied and shown positive results is called cognitive-function intervention, or cog-fun for short. It involves highlighting dynamic interactions between the individual, task, and environment when looking at performance problems. A big part of it is the use of metacognition strategies, which involves teaching things like self-monitoring & self-evaluation of thoughts in different environments. We’re helping them bring awareness about what they’re thinking when they’re thinking it. We use a lot of daily planners, timers, checklists, and positive verbal mediations. We help them get materials ready in advance, reduce clutter in “work” spaces and minimize distractions.

One great aspect about the cog-fun approach is that it can be learned in a playful setting and incorporated both in the clinic with therapists as well as at home with parents/caregivers.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA/behavior therapy to children in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.

Additional Resources:

Effectiveness of Cognitive–Functional (Cog–Fun) Occupational Therapy Intervention for Young Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Controlled Study, May 1, 2014, American Journal of Occupational Therapy

More Blog Entries:

A Child’s “Occupation” is Play – A Brecksville Occupational Therapy Perspective, Dec. 8, 2021, Occupational Therapy Blog