Pediatric occupational therapy has a wide range of methods to help children with focusing problems, whether it is due to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or another cause. Many of these kids have sensory processing challenges, which is what occupational therapy addresses.
The Fidget Factor
Children with ADHD often wiggle a lot and make lots of noise. The reasons vary. Movement serves to help them in several ways:
- Movement keeps them focused.
- Sensory experience tells their body where they are in space.
- They don’t have proper control of their torso and can’t keep a static muscle contraction that will maintain an upright posture.
- They are overly sensitive to light, touch and noise. The feel of the chair, a rug, their clothing or the closeness of other students bothers them.
How Occupational Therapy Helps
Occupational therapists help children with sensory integration, which allows them to then focus better because the extraneous stimuli no longer bother them as much.
Here are three methods that therapists use for children having trouble focusing.
1) How Does Your Engine Run
This nifty program helps children understand how to tell when their brains—their engines—are running too fast or too slow. They practice bringing it to optimum speed with a variety of entertaining and effective activities. To get the brain to slow down, they squeeze balls, turn down the lights and listen to relaxing music. They learn to speed up their brains with fast music and dancing.
2) The Sensory Diet
Using this method, therapists show children how to adapt and cope in order to stay focused in the classroom. They get to jump on a trampoline on breaks during the day, carry objects like books, chairs and book bags that weigh a lot. Other activities include wearing a vest that is weighted down for a few minutes at a time, playing tug of war with classmates, or squeezing silly putty.
3) The Brain Gym
These activities help the left and right hemispheres of the brain coordinate their activity. For example, a therapist might have a child touch her left foot with her right hand and then follow this with her right foot and the left hand, all the while hopping.
There are numerous activities that an pediatric occupational therapist can teach your child. Beside addressing her current problem of focusing in the classroom, they help her develop coping skills that will be useful all her life.