Occupational therapy may help individuals with ADHD in multiple ways. It can help a person identify barriers to success, develop strategies for tackling those areas, practice new skills or refine old ones, and brainstorm solutions when things do not go as planned.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic mental health condition that affects a person’s ability to pay attention and manage impulses.
Experts estimate that 5–7% of school-aged children worldwide have ADHD, and around 63 million children and adolescents live with the condition worldwide. In the United States, about
People living with ADHD may have challenges with time management, organization, focusing, and multitasking. Because ADHD symptoms are highly individualized, occupational therapy aims to help people plan and prioritize by using various techniques tailored to the situation.
Keep reading to learn more about occupational therapy for ADHD, including how it works, and why it may be effective.
At its core, occupational therapy involves helping people of all ages participate in whatever they want or need to do.
Occupational therapy encourages people to overcome the barriers that prevent them from doing important activities, and increases their independence and satisfaction in life.
It addresses the importance of people’s psychological and emotional well-being, and focuses on improving these by using everyday activities in a therapeutic manner. For people with ADHD, who may report low self-esteem and self-efficacy, this is also a focus for the therapy.
Overall, the main goal of occupational therapy is to adapt the environment to fit the individual. It follows the thinking that no two people are the same, so the surroundings should adapt to serve everyone best and allow them to be their most productive.
The basis of this reasoning is especially beneficial for those living with ADHD. Occupational therapy helps these individuals participate fully in social situations. For children with ADHD, it can also help them with school, work ethic, and performance.
While occupational therapy is beneficial when applied to other mental health conditions, limited evidence of its application with ADHD exists.
In a small
Overall, there is a lack of large-scale, high-quality clinical trials looking into the application of occupational therapy in people with ADHD. But some individuals may find it valuable.
There are many aspects to occupational therapy, including guidance and education for family members or caregivers of those with ADHD, recommendations for adaptive equipment, and evaluating the individual’s home, workplace, school, or other environments.
When choosing a treatment approach, occupational therapists need to consider their client’s specific challenges and the best ways to approach them.
There is no single best framework to use for those with ADHD. Some accepted models
- Canadian Model of Occupational Performance
- Person-Environment-Occupation-Performance Model
- Model of Human Occupation
No matter the technique an occupational therapist uses, a flexible approach is best for those with ADHD. With each approach, the occupational therapist should focus on the individual’s goals and interests.
Medicine and psychological interventions are standard methods of ADHD symptom reduction, with psychological interventions as the focus of occupational therapy. However, it is important to note that symptom reduction on its own does not necessarily improve an individual’s daily functioning.
There are three levels of occupational therapy interventions that may follow each other or occur simultaneously depending on the individual’s goals.
These are activities
Occupation-based interventions involve an individual working towards a goal and completing tasks under supervision. Again, these activities vary significantly from person to person, but some possibilities include completing schoolwork, following directions, or getting dressed.
As the occupational therapist observes the individual, they can assess their performance. This allows them to adapt to the activity and
Some occupational therapists work with children while they are at school. This allows them to evaluate the child’s abilities while in the classroom. They can then help the children participate in school activities and modify the classroom environment as needed to fit the child best.
Additional forms of treatment for ADHD include behavioral therapy and medication, with the approach depending on the individual’s age.
For children older than 6 years, doctors may use both medication and behavior training, with parents also receiving behavior management training until their child is age 12 or older.
Schools can also play a role in a child’s ADHD treatment. The AAP recommends that schools add behavioral classroom intervention and school supports.
Behavior therapy aims to
Doctors may use stimulant or nonstimulant medication to treat ADHD. Stimulants are fast-acting medications that are most frequently used to address ADHD symptoms. Nonstimulants may not work as quickly, but their effect can last up to
Occupational therapy is an area of behavioral intervention focusing on molding the environment to fit the individual. People with ADHD may find this particularly beneficial as they manage various structured activities.
The application of occupational therapy may differ between individuals. However, the core of occupational therapy involves a therapist observing an individual in their environment and making activities and other changes to help them navigate daily life.
Other forms of ADHD treatment include medication and behavioral therapy, with the best treatment depending on the person’s age.