Cleveland Occupational Therapists Can Help Kids With ADHD Improve Attention, Reduce Hyperactivity
Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) struggle with the key life skills of paying attention and maintaining a measure of stillness for certain stretches. (Exactly how long their attention span and/or capacity for keeping a calm body depends on things like age, medical diagnosis, environmental factors, etc.). But as Cleveland occupational therapists, we recognize the importance of learning these skills – and that kids with ADHD are going to need extra help to do so.
ADHD, of course, is a chronic condition characterized by attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. (Not all children diagnosed with ADHD are necessarily “hyper,” but the diagnosis of “ADD” – without the hyperactivity – no longer exists in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM-5.)
Symptoms can vary from person-to-person and from age-to-age, but ADHD is often identified by some combination of the following:
- Constant fidgeting
- Constant motion/jumping/pacing, etc.
- Prone to outbursts
- Interrupting others/talking excessively
- Difficulty maintaining attention to the conclusion of an age-appropriate task
- Regular failures to listen to & follow directions
- Inattention to details
Learning to pay attention and maintain a calm body for certain periods of time is important for kids to be successful with:
- Task completion.
- Safety & self-control.
- Social relationships.
- Emotional regulation.
- Self-reflection and mindfulness.
Why ADHD Treatment Often Involves More than Just Medication
Lots of children diagnosed with ADHD are, at some point, prescribed medications such as Ritalin, Focalin, Adderall, or Dexedrine. These are intended to help children improve their concentration, control impulses, and follow through with tasks.
But it’s important to note that these are not “magic pills.” And even when the drugs are working effectively, kids with ADHD often need additional help to effectively cope short- and long-term with emotional problems, social awkwardness, disorganization, distractedness, etc.
Our Cleveland occupational therapists at Therapy & Wellness Connection can help. Some of the interventions and strategies that pediatric OTs can employ to help children with ADHD improve attention and decrease disruptive hyperactivity include:
- Sensory Integration: Occupational therapists often use sensory integration to address sensory processing difficulties commonly associated with ADHD. They work with children to improve their ability to process and respond to sensory information, which can help reduce hyperactivity and improve attention.
- Environmental Modifications: OTs can help create an optimal environment for children with ADHD. This may involve organizing the physical space to minimize distractions, providing visual schedules or timers to improve time management, and establishing consistent routines.
- Attention and Focus Training: Our Cleveland occupational therapists employ various techniques to enhance attention and focus skills among our patients. We may use activities that require sustained attention, such as puzzles or board games, and gradually increase the complexity or duration of the tasks over time. We can also introduce mindfulness exercises and relaxation techniques to improve self-regulation.
- Behavioral Strategies: Occupational therapists collaborate with parents, teachers, and other professionals to develop and implement behavioral strategies. These may include setting clear expectations and rules, implementing reward systems or token economies, and using visual cues or prompts to guide behavior and improve attention.
- Motor Skills Development: Occupational therapists address motor skills deficits that can often co-occur with ADHD. By improving fine motor skills through activities like drawing, handwriting, or playing with manipulative toys, they can indirectly enhance attention and reduce restlessness.
- Self-Regulation Techniques: Occupational therapists teach children with ADHD self-regulation techniques to manage their emotions, impulses, and behavior. This can involve teaching deep breathing exercises, self-monitoring strategies, and providing opportunities for sensory breaks or physical activity to release excess energy.
- Social Skills Training: Occupational therapists may work with children on developing social skills, such as taking turns, listening, and following social cues. Improving these skills can lead to better engagement in social activities, decreased impulsivity, and enhanced attention during interactions with others.
It’s important to note that the specific interventions and strategies used by an occupational therapist will depend on the unique needs and strengths of each child. Individualized assessment and treatment plans are developed to address the specific challenges associated with ADHD. Collaboration among parents, teachers, and therapists is crucial for a comprehensive approach to support the child’s development.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, School Performance and Effect of Medication, February 2019, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
More Blog Entries:
Why Our Akron OTs Prioritize A Child’s Emotional Regulation Skills, May 8, 2023, Therapy & Wellness Connection Blog