creating calm: what our occupational therapist taught us to help with ADHD

{Reposted and updated from 2009 as part of the Best of the Best on SOS Research Blog.} 

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again… I love occupational therapy.

Luke was only able to go twice a month instead of weekly, but we saw improvement nonetheless. His handwriting is better and he had a blast working on throwing and catching, climbing and crashing. All the toys and activities are an active kid’s paradise.

The things Luke learned and accomplished during therapy are great. But the knowledge and tools I gained from the therapist for life outside of that two hours every month are the real treasure. We received Handwriting Without Tears worksheets to work on at home between sessions — the way they teach letter formation taught me how to better help him.

Ms. Janet, Luke’s wonderful [former] OT, gave me tools to create calm. If only I had known such tools and activities existed, I would have asked in the beginning! Here are the activities she suggested we try:

1. Brushing: Sounds crazy, I know, but you can actually brush your child and it helps to calm them. Here are a couple photos of the special brush she gave us, it’s actually a surgeons scrub brush. You make long, firm strokes down the tops of their arms and legs, palms, and feet to instill calm and alertness. Luke loves this! On the way home from therapy in the car, he asked me to brush him. We tried it before bed that night. He told me I wasn’t doing it quite right. I felt a bit unsure about how much pressure to add (the instructions say 80% of your force). 

 

2. Joint compression: There is a way to quickly and repetitively compress the joints in the elbow, wrist and fingers that creates calm. I know it sounds painful or dangerous but she did it to me to demonstrate how to do it for Luke. It creates this washing feeling over your body. Very cool! Who knew? Our resident OT, Nancy Konigsberg, explains the technique in her article, Sensory Integration Techniques for ADHD

3. Proprioceptive Input: Some children need more proprioceptive input to feel grounded in space. Someone who seeks this input might: not be able to keep their hands to themselves, enjoy crashing into things (this is Luke’s favorite part of therapy), bite fingernails (definitely Luke), or enjoy aggressive play. The best way to engage your child’s proprioceptors is to engage in resistive, heavy work activities. Here are some examples:

  • carry heavy items (groceries, box of books, laundry basket, etc)
  • chew gum, eat crunchy foods
  • push/pull full boxes across floor
  • let them crash onto a pile of pillows
  • yard work like raking leaves, pushing the wheelbarrow, shoveling
  • climbing activities at the playground
  • jump on a mini trampoline
  • jumping games
  • tug of war
  • wrap child tightly in blanket
  • pile pillows on child’s body to add heaviness
While these activities are welcome whenever appropriate and during daily play, our OT recommended that we try these tools before school, before homework, or whenever he is about to need to be alert and calm. 

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom.
A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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CO-MORBIDITIES, occupational therapy, parenting/FAMILY, Penny Williams, sensory processing ·

About the author

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom. A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom's view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

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