How Can an Occupational Therapist Help a Child with ADHD in the Home?


Children with ADHD may miss instructions, respond impulsively, or have difficulty sitting still or keeping their focus. In many instances, they’re too distracted to carry out essential daily tasks which lead to frustration in parents.

Common strategies that OTs may suggest for use in the home environment include the following:

Creating Structured Plans for Daily Routines

Create structured daily routines for the morning, afternoon, and evening. Use visual checklists with photos (not clip art) of your child doing each step of a task, or a picture of the completed task, depending on how much support is needed. Beginning tasks with the end in mind can help you both have the same expectations. Then, help your child break down the steps of the task to recreate the picture. In other words, plan backward and execute forward.

Providing an Organized Home Environment

An organized home helps children learn where each of their possessions belongs. It also teaches children where to return items when they are finished using them. Parents can incorporate cleaning up into the family’s daily routine and make it fun by turning it into a game.

Using Analog Clocks to Help Your Child Visualize the Sweep of Time

Children with ADHD are in terms of either “now” or “not now.” As a result, these children tend to require numerous external cues to help them stay on task and be on time.

Place analog clocks at your child’s eye level in all of the rooms your child uses to get ready for the day and do homework in. Using analog clocks helps children understand the passage of time because they can see time moving, whereas digital clocks only show numbers changing. Shading the pie of time on a glass-faced clock with a dry erase marker is a good example of making your child realise the time left or time passed.

Integrating Physical Activity into Your Child’s Day

Regular exercise has been shown to increase concentration, improve sleep, and decrease anxiety and depression. OTs incorporate movement into learning when possible. For example, have your child practice math facts or study for a test while jumping on a trampoline or standing on a balance board

Incorporating Sensory Strategies to Improve Self-Regulation

Some children with ADHD may have difficulty sitting still to complete homework or finish dinner.

Children with low sitting tolerance may benefit from using active seating, such as ball chairs, inflatable wedges, or wobble discs. Short “brain breaks,” like doing ten jumping jacks or pushups, can also help students recharge and refocus on a task.

Creating a Safe “Calm Down Zone” in Your Home

Children with ADHD are prone to having strong emotional responses. Therefore, they may benefit from having a “calm down zone” in your home where they can go to regroup when they’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or about to meltdown. A “calm down zone” may include a rocking chair or swing for movement; stress balls or resistance bands for “heavy work”; sensory bottles filled with water, oil, beads, and glitter to look at; a noise machine or quiet, soothing music to listen to; and even weighted blankets or stuffed animals to provide calming input.

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Dr. Debajani Mohapatra

Dr. Debajani Mohapatra

Dr. Debajani Mohapatra has 3 years of experience in working with children
having neurodevelopmental disorders.