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Occupational therapy can help treat ADHD symptoms in children and adults

Occupational therapy is a holistic practice that can benefit people struggling with disorders or disabilities. If you or your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether working with an occupational therapist can help minimize symptoms and improve your quality of life.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a neurodivergent disorder that impacts behavior and social relationships. It is a mental disorder when the brain lacks the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This transmitter is associated with dopamine production, which impacts the brain’s ability to focus and regulate emotions which are the most common behaviors associated with the disorder. The cause of a norepinephrine deficiency is unknown but may be related to genetics.

ADHD is mainly identified in children because it impacts their ability to regulate their emotions and behavior in school. It can also impact their ability to succeed in school due to their inability to focus. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD because the symptoms present differently in girls. Boys are more likely to display hyperactivity symptoms, and girls are more likely to display inactivity due to the disorder, making it harder to diagnose. Additionally, adults can be diagnosed with ADHD if their behavior wasn’t impacted as children. According to Psychiatry.org, 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD?

Symptoms of ADHD are typically focused on the patient’s behavior and less on physical capabilities. There are three ways ADHD can present itself, each with different symptoms. They are:

Inattentive presentation

This presentation displays problems with staying focused or organized. They may be easily distracted, unable to stick with tasks or avoid tasks that require extended periods or sustained mental effort. These symptoms may be related to the brain lacking norepinephrine in the frontal cortex that controls attention, executive function, and organization. Symptoms are:

  • Difficulty paying close attention resulting in careless mistakes
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken too
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Doesn’t manage time well
  • Unorganized
  • Forgets daily tasks like chores or paying bills
  • Loses things used in daily life, like glasses or cell phones

Hyperactive/impulsive presentation

Hyperactive or impulsive presentation refers to excessive movements like fidgeting or excessive talking. Impulsivity refers to taking actions without thinking about consequences. This presentation may be related to a lack of norepinephrine in the brain’s Reticular Activating System that can cause inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity.

ADHD symptoms are:

  • Fidgeting
  • Difficulty staying seated
  • Climbing on things or running around at inappropriate times
  • Inability to engage in play quietly
  • Disruptive
  • Difficulty waiting in line
  • Difficulty waiting for people to finish questions or sentences before responding.

Combined presentation

This type of ADHD can be diagnosed when symptoms from the other types are present. If you believe you or your child may have five or more of these symptoms, you may want to speak to your doctor about an ADHD diagnosis. Different types of treatment can help you manage the disorder with or without psychiatric help. Occupational therapy can be a holistic strategy for ADHD treatment.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is a type of physical therapy that focuses on helping the patient complete the daily tasks necessary to lead an independent and successful life. Occupational therapists are licensed professionals. Some people may assume that occupational therapy is related to a person’s occupation, but it has a broader range of purposes than the name suggests. They focus on building the following skills:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Regulating emotions

They typically work on teams of medical professionals to help manage a patient’s overall health. Working with an occupational therapist may be a beneficial addition to your child’s treatment or for adult ADHD.

Occupational therapy treatment for ADHD

An occupational therapist will first speak with you or your child about their experience with ADHD to determine what treatment may be beneficial. They focus on the skills the patient needs to function throughout their daily routine and how ADHD may be impacting those tasks. Then they work with your doctors and other medical professionals to develop a treatment plan to address the needed areas. They may work with the patient in the following areas:

Time management

Occupational therapists can help you improve time processing and daily time management processes. People with Inattentive ADHD struggle with time management. This study from 2018 shows that patients who worked with an occupational therapist for 12 weeks improved their time management and task management skills.

Organizational Skills

OTs can help break down tasks into smaller parts that are easier for the patient to conceptualize and keep track of while providing additional tools that help them work through each process until it feels natural. They can break down these tasks with the patient, teaching them how to organize their materials and create systems that work for the specific patient. People with inattention ADHD can struggle with organization and task management, so working with an OT to develop coping skills can improve their ability to finish school projects and keep their space tasks organized.

Executive function

Executive function refers to complex mental processes that intertwine and impact memory, planning skills, setting priorities, attention shifts, and impulse control. Occupational therapists can provide assistive devices that help improve executive dysfunction. They can also work with parents and children to show them how to coach and encourage the child to build executive function skills. They can use memory, matching games, and visual cues to strengthen these skills.

At Living Well Balanced, we offer occupational therapy with compassionate and qualified professionals who can help you manage your ADHD and increase your mobility and fitness. You can make an appointment with one of our occupational therapists to find out how they can help. You can also check out some assistive devices and items that may benefit your treatment at our Amazon Affiliates link: Must Have Products – Living Well Balanced. If you have any questions, you can always give us a call at 212-579-2858 or send an email at info@livingwb.com. Check out our blog for more information about rehabilitative therapies.