Since my son was diagnosed with ADHD, I have become more attuned to all the issues encompassing the diagnosis. ADHD is a kind of slippery slope for parents, therapists and even educators. Each child with ADHD is different and has a different presentation of symptoms. It is often hard to pinpoint where to start or how to treat.
The truth about ADHD is that it is insidious. It creeps into every aspect of a child’s life, and it can affect their performance in all activities of daily living (ADL’s). Consequently, occupational therapy is essential for helping a child with ADHD. The occupational therapist (OT) is trained to help with sensory problems, postural problems, attention problems, coping problems, regulatory problems, focus problems, fine and gross motor problems and behavior problems. Any given child with ADHD could use help in at least one of these areas.
Increased Problems During the Summer
Some children are fortunate and the ADHD is properly diagnosed. They probably get some form of therapy during the school year. Some children do not get diagnosed despite the parents’ conviction that something is not right. Structure during the school year sometimes can mask the severity of the problem. When summertime comes around, the problem can be magnified for all these kids. There is less structure, less supervision and more opportunity to get bored. Some families take a medication break during the summer. The potential for problems is significant.
You can safeguard your child and make the summer a wonderful experience if you act as your child’s OT. Now, I am not saying that you have to do the “hands on” guidance and exercises that a trained OT might provide. What you can do is involve your child in the types of activities that will help them improve attention, focus, sensory integration, balance, impulsivity and motor skills. Some activities can even help with behavior issues. Keeping them involved will also stave off boredom.
- Horseback Riding. There is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence that horseback riding improves coordination, balance, sensory skills, gross and fine motor skills and behavior. The gait of a horse mimics a walking gait. Interaction with the horse seems to help improve sensory integration issues. And there is quite a bit of evidence that impulse control, anger, aggression and even depression can be affected by working with and riding a horse. You can read more by Sue Adams at The Therapeutic Value of Horseback Riding.
- Pool Time. Dr. Joni Redlich published an article describing 8 Sensory-Motor Benefits of Aquatic Therapy.
- Playground. I don’t think anyone stops to analyze why kids love a playground or why it might enhance development. It happens to provide many opportunities for skills to develop. Swinging and spinning helps with coordination and balance; climbing helps with coordination, strength and grasp. Sliding helps with vestibular development. All the activities help with sensory integration. The playground also offers an excellent venue for social interaction with other children.
- Day Camp or Overnight Camp. Either one is good, depending on the age and maturity level of the child. Camps give a child an opportunity to separate from their parents, learn to play cooperatively and also give them a chance to try many different sports and other activities. It is a great social and learning environment.
ADHD symptoms can be minimized if you are pro-active. Exercise is known to help reduce symptoms of hyperactivity. Keep your child busy with activities which are fun and at the same time helpful for ADHD symptoms. The summer may turn out to be therapeutic, exciting and medication free. That’s a combination which benefits everyone.