The goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in everyday life activities. Academic, educational, healthcare and occupational specialists in ADHD convened on 10 February 2017 at the expert workshop “Occupational Therapy and Adult ADHD” in London, UK. The aim of the session was to develop practical guidance for occupational therapy professionals working with adults with ADHD.
The authors of this consensus statement proposed that occupational therapy for adults with ADHD should focus on: organising and adapting the physical and/or social environment to enable participation; promoting social awareness and interactions within occupations; and encouraging self-management of symptoms through strategies such as adaptations to routines, sensory regulation and stress-management techniques.
A common phenomenon of ADHD may be the inability of adults with ADHD to organise their physical environments to support daily functioning. The authors recommended that occupational therapists could help adults with ADHD to understand that organisation requires regular, repeated behaviours, rather than just a singular attempt, and help to establish behavioural change to support organisation. The key to maintaining organisation can be through assigning places for essential items, creating structure and establishing routines.
Additionally, adults with ADHD may have impaired social interactions. The authors recommended that interventions to increase social interactions of adults with ADHD could promote self-efficacy and increase self-appraisal. In a personal capacity, occupational therapists could suggest that adults with ADHD participate in controlled social conditions, such as voluntary work or community projects. These social conditions could provide opportunities for clearly defined activity choices that may help adults with ADHD to establish new social skills. Furthermore, occupational therapists can educate family members of adults with ADHD about the individual’s experiences and provide reasons for their behaviours.
The authors recommended that occupational therapists could also provide techniques to aid adults with ADHD to manage their stress by planning their day and time management. In order to achieve a planned mode (planning and adhering to a schedule and understanding when flexibility can be exercised) rather than a reactive mode (allowing distractions to alter adherence to a schedule), the authors suggested that occupational therapists could help adults with ADHD to achieve habituation and to consistently plan recreational and relaxation time. Additionally, occupational therapists could educate adults with ADHD about the usefulness of electronic alert systems to indicate when a task should end. Also, occupational therapists could help individuals to understand their reasoning for avoiding certain activities and to practise skills needed to reduce these behaviours.
Furthermore, the authors recommended that occupational therapists could help adults with ADHD to recognise the relationship between mood, performance and sensory stimulation, and learn to monitor and regulate the amount and type of sensory stimulation that they are experiencing. The authors stated that a key role of the occupational therapist is to promote self-regulation and support individuals in recognising when they moving from a calm alert sensory state to a different state, and what methods could be utilised to move back into the calm alert state.
The authors concluded by stating that occupational therapists have a lot to offer in providing interventions for adults with ADHD. They emphasised that this consensus statement aims to provide recommendations for occupational therapists to better aid adults with ADHD. The authors proposed that the consensus statement is a unified and flexible approach to working with adults with ADHD.
Read more about occupational therapy for adults with ADHD here
Adamou M, Asherson P, Arif M, et al. Recommendations for occupational therapy interventions for adults with ADHD: a consensus statement from the UK adult ADHD network. BMC Psychiatry 2021; 21: 72.