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Supporting Children with ADHD through Occupational Therapy

Supporting Children with ADHD through Occupational Therapy
Elisabeth Bahr, OTD, MS, OT/L
September 5, 2023

Student with their head resting on school work in frustration

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) impacts attention, which makes focusing and maintaining concentration on tasks challenging. This variance has nothing to do with intelligence but is a disorder of self-regulation. 

The role of an occupational therapy practitioner (OTP) is to implement effective treatment strategies for students with ADHD and to provide support for them and their teachers.

Understanding ADHD equips OTPs to address its profound effects, including:

  • Impeded academic performance
  • Challenges with relationships & making friends 
  • Affected day-to-day functioning, including self-care & social skills

OT Interventions for ADHD

OTPs can work with teachers to cultivate an ADHD-friendly learning environment by implementing strategies such as:

  • Visual supports
  • Personalized accommodations
  • Behavior management techniques
  • Environmental modifications 

These tools assist academic tasks, encourage self-regulation, and foster organization—all of which promote a supportive learning environment.

ADHD treatment is typically multimodal and may also include: 

  • Medication
  • Parent training
  • Skill-specific training
  • Mental health treatment
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Classroom interventions

Each of these approaches can play a significant role in managing ADHD symptoms and promoting well-being.

ADHD Occupational Therapy Activities

OTPs engage students in activities designed to build skills such as time management, organization, and problem-solving. 

Teaching parents healthy behaviors to implement at home—such as balanced meals, consistent sleep schedules, managing screen time, and regular physical activity—can also contribute to academic success and overall well-being.

Evidence-based strategies to enhance interventions include: 

  • Behavior management techniques
  • Strength-based practice
  • Sensory strategies
  • Self-regulation tools
  • Motor skills exercises
  • Mindfulness-based practice

Active collaboration with teachers and parents optimizes built and social environments and can promote focus, organization, and social integration among students with ADHD.

Occupational Therapy Goals for Students with ADHD

OTPs aim to enhance academic and social success for students with ADHD. Bridging the gap between intention and action in students with ADHD requires:

  • Addressing motivation
  • Overcoming avoidance
  • Problem-solving
  • Determining tools to reduce procrastination

Understanding ADHD and implementing the right strategies enable OTPs to assist students in achieving their full potential. Comprehensive support and practical strategies can help students to thrive in school settings.


More on this topic can be found in the OccupationalTherapy.com course, ADHD In Action: Empowering Occupational Therapy Practitioners In Elementary Schools


  1. Ward, R.J., Kovshoff, H., & Kreppner, J. (2021). School staff perspectives on ADHD and training: Understanding the needs and views of UK primary staff. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 26(3), 306-321.

elisabeth bahr

Elisabeth Bahr, OTD, MS, OT/L

Liz Bahr is an occupational therapist, writer, professor, and yoga therapist. She is a neurodiverse-affirming, neurodivergent OTP committed to creating a more inclusive and equitable world for all. She graduated from Boston University's Occupational Therapy Post-Professional Doctorate and New York University, Master of Science programs. She is currently a Master of Creative Writing student at Harvard Extension.

In her clinical practice, she focuses on merging creativity and occupation to improve the quality of life for adolescents and young adults. She has undergone additional training in ADHD and uses this knowledge to help her clients develop strategies and reach their goals. She is also a certified yoga therapist and uses yoga to help her clients improve their physical and mental health.

Liz is a sought-after speaker and writer on occupational therapy, ADHD, and creativity. She has presented at conferences and workshops nationwide, and her work has been featured in national publications. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with others to help them live their best lives.

You can find her on LinkedIn or at her wellness practice, pegasuswellness.co. She also writes for Continued.com.

Related Courses

ADHD In Action: Empowering Occupational Therapy Practitioners In Elementary Schools
Presented by Elisabeth Bahr, OTD, MS, OT/L
Course: #5988Level: Introductory1 Hour
Rehabilitation professionals working with children with ADHD in school settings will be educated on evidence-based strategies and creative interventions in this workshop. Participants will explore practical approaches to support these children in achieving academic success, enhancing social skills, and optimizing their school function.

ADHD In Adolescence: Enhancing Success For Middle And High School Students
Presented by Elisabeth Bahr, OTD, MS, OT/L
Course: #5991Level: Introductory1 Hour
Occupational therapists working with middle and high school adolescents with ADHD are provided with evidence-based strategies and interventions in this 1-hour workshop. Participants will explore practical approaches to support these students in achieving academic success, enhancing social skills, and managing their symptoms effectively in a more complex school environment.

Electrical Stimulation for Recovery of Function in Neurorehabilitation
Presented by Rebecca Martin, OTR/L, OTD, CPAM, CKTP
Course: #3840Level: Intermediate1 Hour
This course will describe the different mechanisms of action for electrical stimulation to restore function in patients with neurological dysfunction. Using case studies and best evidence, participants will learn how to design and execute interventions with electrical stimulation useful in neurorehabiliation.

Joint Hypermobility Syndromes: Assessment and Intervention
Presented by Valeri Calhoun, MS, OTR/L, CHT
Course: #5376Level: Intermediate1 Hour
This course will cover upper extremity assessment and treatment strategies for the pediatric/young adult population affected by joint hypermobility syndromes. The treatment focuses on both orthopedic strategies along with adaptive methods for these individuals.

Disability Inclusion: What Healthcare Providers Need To Know
Presented by Kathryn Sorensen, OTD, OTR/L, ADAC
Course: #5632Level: Introductory1 Hour
As a person with a disability and an occupational therapist, I have a unique perspective of living in two worlds. In this course, I will share my personal experience and things I wish healthcare providers knew and understood about living with a disability.

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