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An Overview

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention (Inattentiveness), the ability to sit still (Hyperactive), and self-control (Impulsiveness). ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and his/her social relationships.

Children with ADHD may have signs from one, two, or all three of these categories:

  • Inattentiveness. Children who are inattentive (easily distracted) have trouble focusing their attention, concentrating, and staying on task. They may not listen well to instructions, may miss details, and may not finish task they start.They may seem absent-minded or forgetful, lose track of their things and appear to be day dreaming.
  • Hyperactivity. Hyperactive kids are fidgety, restless, and easily bored. They may find it difficult to sit still, or stay quiet when needed. They tend to rush through things and make careless mistakes. Without meaning to, they may act in ways that disrupt others like jumping around, being fidgety and restless.
  • Impulsivity. Children who have impulsiveness act too quickly before thinking. They often interrupt, might push or grab, and find it difficult to wait for their turn. They may do things without taking permission, take things that aren't theirs, or act in ways that are extremely risky. They may have emotional reactions that appear too intense for the situation.

The common three subtypes of ADHD are -

  • Predominantly Inattentive : Majority of symptoms are under inattention category.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive : Majority of symptoms are under hyperactivity and impulsivity categories.
  • Combined/Mixed : This is a combination of  inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms

ADHD does not cause any other psychological or developmental issues. However, kids with ADHD have more chances than others to also have conditions such as : 

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) - Pattern of negative/hostile behaviour towards authority figures.
  • Conduct Disorder - Antisocial behaviour such as stealing, fighting, destroying property and harming people/animals.
  • Learning Disabilities - Problems with reading, writing, arithmatic etc.
  • Anxiety Disorders - Including OCD
  • Mood Disorders - Depression and Bipolar Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Tic Disorder or Tourette Syndrome - Repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that are difficult to control

Risk factors for ADHD :

  • Genetics - parent or sibling, with ADHD or another mental health disorder
  • Exposure to toxins — such as lead, found mainly in paint and household pipes
  • Maternal drug use, alcohol use or smoking during pregnancy
  • Preterm/premature birth

Although sugar is a popular suspect to cause hyperactivity, there isn't a reliable proof of this. Many other issues in childhood may cause difficulty sustaining attention, but that's not same as ADHD.

An occupational therapist helps kids with ADHD improve skills, such as:

  • Organization
  • Physical control/coordination
  • Ability to perform everyday tasks -- such as taking shower, organize their school bag, or make their own bed -- quickly and well
  • Control/channelize their energy levels, hyperactivity, etc.

The Occupational Therapy Session

The first thing the therapist does is evaluation. They usually do this with input from you and observing your child during the session.

During evaluation, the therapist will look at how ADHD has affected your child's:

  • Social life
  • Home life
  • School work

The OT will also find out your child's strengths and weaknesses. Then they'll recommend ways to address his/her issues.

During a session, the occupational therapist and your child might:

  • Play games, such as catching or hitting a ball to improve coordination.
  • Do activities to work out anger and aggression.
  • Try techniques to improve focus.
  • Practice handwriting.
  • Go over social skills.
  • Work on time management.
  • Set up ways to stay organized in the classroom and at home.
  • Come up with an idea that helps your child understand hyperactivity and how to control it. For example, a “hot engine/cold engine” analogy and how to cool a hot engine down.

Sensory Therapy

The occupational therapist might also test your child for sensory processing disorder.

Kids with ADHD sometimes have trouble processing sights, sounds, smells, and other things.

Most people can filter out the sound of an airconditioner or the sound of a fan. But for some kids with ADHD, these sounds/sights may overwhelm their senses.

Some children with the condition may pull away from too much stimulation. Others may crave even more. They can swing and spin endlessly.


Occupational therapists use a protocol called Sensory Integrative Therapy to help kids with ADHD who have sensory processing disorder. In this technique, the therapist helps to reorganize/integrate the child's sensory system, using:

  • Deep pressure, such as massage or the use of a weighted vest or blanket
  • Rhythmic, repetitive movements such as on a swing, trampoline, or exercise ball
  • Different textures for the child to touch
  • Listening therapy to help with sensitivity to sounds

Sensory therapy is a part of overall treatment for ADHD that includes medicine along with behavior therapy.This technique can help improve issues like impulsivity and hyperactivity.

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