Over the past thirty years or so, the word “therapy” has become a common household term.  In recent years, many types of therapies have evolved to aid in meeting the needs of individuals with a variety of diagnoses.  Occupational therapy is one of those.  It often helps people with sensory integration disorder, ADHD, and other diagnosis.

What is Occupational Therapy?

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., in simplest terms, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations). Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

In keeping with our main focus of teenager we will discuss how OT  addresses the senses and is used to help teens with ADHD focus and be successful in there schoolwork.

Teenagers have been noted by occupational therapists to respond best to physical activity.  So, finding a licensed occupational therapist in your area will be a terrific help if you sense that this is an issue with your child. They will be able to evaluate your child and specifically determine which of the strategy for your teen to incorporate into their homework or study time can lead to a more positive experience.   The following areas will be evaluated:

  • Visual perception
  • Somatosensory processing (touch and proprioception)
  • Vestibular processing
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Motor planning

Below are a few strategies that you may be able to try at home if your teen struggles with completing homework assignments due to lack of focus.

During homework, you may consider using the timer on their cell phone or stopwatch to schedule breaks.

It will benefit them to have a visual reminder of time and develop management skills.  During these breaks take advantage simple activities like chair pushups, finger stretches or doing pushups or jumping jacks. Before beginning homework the student can walk home from school, take the dogs on a walk, play a little basketball or even go for a walk. Chores like washing the car are very helpful as well because of the vertical movement. It may sound difficult, but think about how much better you feel after a run or doing physical activity. Do you feel calmer? This “input” can assist in releasing tension, relieving tight muscles and filling their sensory need in order to focus back on their work.

Many teens that are struggling to focus need a sensory input, often called “sensory seeking”. While studying, these students often can adjust more rapidly when listening to white noise or music while studying or some can focus a little more while chewing gum or eating crunchy foods.

Sports after school are always helpful as long as your teen doesn’t get too tired!

On the other side of the spectrum, there are students that are too “reeved up” to focus at school. They need soothing stimuli such as listening to soft music or dimming the lights if possible. They should do their homework in a secluded place to avoid distractions and not at the kitchen table for instance. Things that may seem insignificant to most people can bring about successful results and distract the student.

Being aware and tuned in to sensory input strategies and ideas can make a significant difference in the way your teen approaches and is successful with homework and studying.

This is an article to bring awareness to the topic of learning disabilities, for further information, please see your family physician.