Occupational therapy practitioners focus on facilitating a child’ academic success, social relationships, leisure activities, or play while providing intervention in the school setting.
Sensory Strategies to Improve Sustained Attention
A “sensory diet” consists of a set of specific activities to help a child get the sensory input he/she needs to prepare for academic learning. Sensory diet may include:
Using alternative seating like ball chairs or wobble discs to boost sitting tolerance, as well as hand or foot fidgets to increase focus.
Doing “heavy work,” like pushing or pulling, can help calm the body and get a child ready to work.
Using a privacy shield or noise-canceling headphones to create a quiet workspace.
Prescribing sensory breaks or snacks, into the child’s day can help regulate the body to a calm alert state for increased focus. Sensory breaks also provide physical outlets that are child-specific.
Collaborating with school staff to carryover therapeutic strategies with the child that reinforce school principles both at school and home.
Creating a “Calm Down Zone” at School
As discussed previously, a “calm down zone” gives a child with ADHD a place to go to regroup when he/she is feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or about to meltdown. A “calm down zone” works the same at school as it does at home.
Improving Gross and Fine Motor Skills
OTs help children to improve gross and fine motor skills, it helps them not only do better in school but also complete activities of daily living more independently. In school, OTs conduct handwriting assessments and remediation and can help children with writing mechanics, such as developing a functional pencil grasp (this may include utilizing an assistive device like a pencil grip), developing proper letter formation habits, and improving baseline placement and letter or word spacing.
Breaking Down Tasks into Smaller Steps
OTs instruct children to strategically break down tasks and projects into smaller, more manageable steps. They also teach children how to sequence tasks by incorporating words such as first, then, and next or using graphic organizers to help children plan writing assignments. The goal is to provide children with strategies they can implement and transfer to other projects.
Decreasing Distractions in the Classroom
An OT can make recommendations to reduce distractions in the classroom that may not be obvious to someone who doesn’t have ADHD. For example, some students with ADHD find that black and white worksheets appear distorted under bright, fluorescent lighting, making it harder to concentrate. Providing students with colored paper instead may help them sustain focus.
Empowering Students to Advocate for Themselves
Another major area of OT practice focuses on self advocacy. OTs educate students about their diagnosis as well as what tools and resources they have available to them, such as an IEP or education plans. OTss also help students develop self-advocacy skills to communicate with their teachers when needed.