Study finds ADHD improves with sensory intervention

Preliminary findings from a study of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show that sensory intervention -- for example, deep pressure and strenuous exercise -- can significantly improve problem behaviors such as restlessness, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Of the children receiving occupational therapy, 95 percent improved. This is the first study of this size on sensory intervention for ADHD.

The Temple University researchers, Kristie Koenig, Ph.D., OTR/L, and Moya Kinnealey, Ph.D., OTR/L, wanted to determine whether ADHD problem behaviors would decrease if underlying sensory and neurological issues were addressed with occupational therapy. Their study, "Comparative Outcomes of Children with ADHD: Treatment Versus Delayed Treatment Control Condition," will be presented Friday, May 13, at the American Occupational Therapy Association meeting in Long Beach, Calif.

Children with ADHD have difficulty paying attention and controlling their behavior. Experts are uncertain about the exact cause of ADHD, but believe there are both genetic and biological components. Treatment typically consists of medication, behavior therapy or a combination of the two.

"Many children with ADHD also suffer from sensory processing disorder, a neurological underpinning that contributes to their ability to pay attention or focus," explained Koenig. "They either withdraw from or seek out sensory stimulation like movement, sound, light and touch. This translates into troublesome behaviors at school and home."

Normally, we process and adapt to sensory stimulation in our daily environment. But children with ADHD are unable to adjust, and instead might be so distracted and bothered by a sound or movement in the classroom, for instance, that they cannot pay attention to the teacher.

All of the 88 study participants, who are clients at the OT4Kids occupational therapy center in Crystal River, Fla., were taking medication for ADHD. Of the 88,

Contact: Eryn Jelesiewicz
Temple University Health System

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