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Home » Blogs » Loving a Child with ADHD » How We Do Occupational Therapy at Home For ADHD: Tools, Time, and Cost

How We Do Occupational Therapy at Home For ADHD: Tools, Time, and Cost

A few days ago, I gave you guys a glimpse into the world of occupational therapy for ADHD adolescents. We talked about clinical therapy, school therapy, and at-home therapy.

After posting it, my sister (the mother of an ADHD child) asked if she could share some of the specific details about how she does at-home therapy with her son. She figured some people might want to know the nitty gritty facts about lesson plans, specific tools and toys they use, or even how they manage their time in practical ways … and I totally agreed with her! People do need to know these things, especially when they’re first starting out.

So for anyone who needs some guidance, or maybe even just a little bit of encouragement, here’s what my sister had to say about how she specifically incorporates OT into her family life:

Occupational therapy has been a huge part of our lives since my son, Felix, was first evaluated for developmental delays in 2013. He began OT on a once-per-week basis, but was soon worked into twice-per-week to further meet his needs.

As his mom, I’ve always felt responsible for his progress (or lack thereof) so I’ve attended every single therapy session alongside him. That is, until he started Pre-K this year and began receiving school-based therapy services. Over the past two or three years, by attending these therapy sessions, I’ve learned far more than I ever thought possible about all kinds of therapy, all types of disorders, and the many tools that I could use to make my son’s life a little easier for him.

Of these tools, OT has had the largest impact on Felix’s mental and physical development. Because OT is not included into Felix’s school-based therapy program, my husband and I have chosen to continue OT with him at home in order for him to continue making progression with his gross and fine motor skills. Today, I want to share with you the tools that we use at home with Felix for occupational therapy, give you an estimate of how much money we spend/save by doing at-home therapy, and also add in some helpful advice along the way.

[Note: I am in no way a licensed occupational therapist. I’m just a mom who pays close attention to my son’s needs, does a lot of research, and asks a ton of questions during clinical therapy sessions.]

As I said before, occupational therapy is used for developing someone’s motor skills. With Felix, we work mostly on fine motor skills because that’s what he needs the most help with. Fine motor skills are used for things like writing, buttoning, zipping, pinching, and other small muscle movements.

In Arkansas (where we live), OT can cost anywhere from $50-$200 per hour. Considering the fact that a typical special needs child requires at least 2 hours of therapy per week, and considering the fact that there are about 52 weeks in a year, that’s a grand total of $5,200-$20,800 spent per year solely on OT. That’s not even factoring in the cost of a PCP referral, an initial evaluation, commute, or the loss of wages due to the time demand required to get your child to therapy and back two times per week.

By doing at-home therapy with Felix, I instead only spend about $100 total for a year of supplies. Saving that much money feels great when you have a child with special needs!

I do need to say, though, that at-home therapy is not for everyone. It works for us because I have the ability to invest the time and effort into working with him. If you’re someone who can’t devote at least 3-4 hours per week to getting supplies together and 1-2 hours to working with your child, then at-home therapy is not an option I would recommend for you. It requires a lot of time, patience, and persistence.

But, in case you’re someone who’s interested, let’s get down to the facts.

The first thing I do when preparing for therapy is make a Dollar Tree run and buy all the supplies I need. I buy 25 or so items (that I will list and picture below), but there are a few items I can’t find at Dollar Tree so I get them from Walmart. In total, I spend $40-$50 gather initial supplies, but they end up lasting me a good six months or so worth of sessions. And I’m not afraid to go looking for supplies at yard sales!

The only necessary supplies that can’t be bought at Dollar Tree or Walmart are print-outs of handwriting exercises, which you can either print multiples of or laminate and reuse.

(I strongly suggest getting professional advice from a licensed occupational therapist, or at least doing some heavy research on the benefits of OT, before you begin any of this. It will give you a better idea of whether or not this is a good option for your family, it will help you know how to get started, and it will keep you motivated along the way.)

Now, go grab a friend and take them with you to gather supplies. Also, find a big cup of Joe somewhere along the way because you’re probably going to need it.

* * * *

What we use for fine motor skills:

(The cost of each item is $1, unless otherwise specified.)

Medium-sized container (x2)
Pom Balls
Tongs
Marbles
Pool noodle (If you buy in the off-season, they’re dirt cheap!)
Shoe Laces
Push Pins
Rubber Bands
Clothespins
String
Stickers
Scissors
Large scooper (like for dog food)
Pipe Cleaners
Small beads
Tennis Balls
Buttons
Bubble Wrap
Composition Book
Blank printer paper (or recycled paper)
Sticker Labels
Crayons
Pencils (Grips are nice, too.)
Workbooks
Coloring Books
Hole punch
Small wooden blocks
Dice
Cork Board* ($5 at Walmart)
Lacing Boards, dinosaurs* ($10 wood boards at Walmart or $1 paper boards at Dollar Tree)
Large Beads* ($5 at Walmart)
Recycled – Egg crate, plastic cup, spoon, empty bottle, baby “Puffs” container, rocks

* * * *

What we use for gross motor skills:

Exercise Trampoline* ($30 at Walmart)
Scooter Board* ($15 at Walmart, and TOTALLY worth it)
Jump Rope
Popsicle Sticks – motor activity choices

* * * *

How each supply is used in OT:

Threading and tying laces —

Supplies needed:
Egg carton
Shoe laces
Scissors

Setup:
Flip egg carton on its top. Use scissors to poke holes in the bottom of each egg basket.

Therapy:
Allow child to thread the shoe lace through the holes (guiding them if necessary), and then ask/teach them to tie a bow at the end.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

1[1]

Popping bubble wrap —

Supplies needed:
Sheets of bubble wrap

Setup:
Nothing!

Therapy:
Allow child to pop the bubbles until their little heart is content.

This helps:
Fine motor skills if popping with forefinger and thumb
Gross motor skills if popping it by jumping up and down on it

Bands around tacks —

Supplies needed:
Push pins
Rubber bands
Cork board

Setup:
Place push pins on the cork board at various intervals. Push them firmly into the board. (For teaching symmetrical shapes, place the push pins at equal intervals along the board.)

Therapy:
Ask child to string the rubber bands around the push pins without pulling them out of the board. (For added challenge, ask the child to create specific shapes with their rubber bands.)

This helps:
Fine motor skills

IMG_1747[1]

Popsicle sticks —

Supplies needed:
Popsicle sticks
Marker

Setup:
Write different whole-body-movement activities on each Popsicle stick. Gather sticks in your hands so the child can’t read what they say. Ask them to pick a stick out of the pile.

Therapy:
Read what’s on the stick they’ve chosen, and complete the task!

*Be creative with this one. Even with an obstacle course, you don’t necessarily have to use supplies. You can jump over couch cushions, crawl under blanket forts, or walk on jump rope tight wires. The possibilities are endless.*

This helps:
Gross motor skills

Coloring pages —

Supplies needed:
Either pages from a coloring book, or pages you’ve hand-drawn with a marker. (Lack of money doesn’t need to stop you from pursuing these activities!)
Crayons, markers, or colored pencils

Setup:
Allow the child to pick a coloring page. Or, for even more fun, draw them a coloring page yourself and use their favorite items! Not artistic? Most kids really don’t care. And you can always look at an image on the internet or in a book to help guide you!

Therapy:
Allow child to color in whatever way they choose! Outside the lines is totally fine, unless you need to work on literal parameters with them. Also, a lot of kids with ADHD (or multiple diagnoses) need help holding their writing utensils correctly. If this is the case with your child, guide them on how to hold their pencil/marker/crayon.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

IMG_2632[1]

Age-appropriate workbooks —

Supplies needed:
Workbooks that target your child’s specific academic needs, or printed lesson pages from the internet.
Writing utensil (with grippers if possible!)

Setup:
Explain to the child what each page asks of them. Give them clear yes’s and no’s. Go one page at a time so as not to overwhelm them, and be willing to repeat directions often. You might have to redirect a few times, but that’s okay. Gently remind them of what their goal is on that page, but know when they’ve hit their limit.

Workbooks can be too tedious for some children with ADHD, especially those who are younger. Just pay attention to the cues from your child, and move according to what works for them! Do be encouraging, though, of learning to sit and concentrate.

Therapy:
Stay with them if necessary. They’ll probably need lots of direction and guidance, especially if they’re new to workbooks. Keep time sections for this short.

This helps:
Fine motor skills (and attention span)

IMG_4352[1]

Pom-pom pickup —

Supplies needed:
Pom balls
Bucket/container
Tongs

Setup:
Place a few pom balls inside the container. Leave the rest outside of the container on the floor or table.

Therapy:
Show the child how to squeeze the tongs together correctly, and then ask them to pick up the pom balls and drop them into the container. Work specifically on picking up one pom ball at a time if your child can handle that.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

Beads in a bucket —

Supplies needed:
Beads
Large scooper
Small-to-medium container

Setup:
Place a few beads inside the container. Leave the rest outside of the container on the floor or table.

Therapy:
Show the child how to scoop the beads and dump them into the container. Ask the child to copy what you showed them.

This helps:
Gross motor skills (with full arm movement)

IMG_4409[1]

Spoon scooping —

Supplies needed:
Beads
Spoon
Old (clean) bottle of some sort

Setup:
Place a few beads inside the bottle. Leave the rest outside of the bottle on the floor or table.

Therapy:
Show child how to scoop the beads up with the spoon, and then show them how to carefully dump the beads into the bottle. Work specifically on picking up one bead at a time if your child is capable of that.

This helps:
Fine motor skills (with finger and hand movement)
Gross motor skills (if whole arm movement is used)

IMG_5918[1]

Cut along the lines —

Supplies needed:
Paper with lines across the page. Lines can curve slightly, or they can go straight across (horizontally or vertically, depending on which skills you’re practicing).

Setup:
You can purchase pre-made cutting pages or you can create your own with brightly colored markers. I like to use rows of stickers in place of the lines for added fun.

Therapy:
Explain to the child what is expected of them, and then let them cut! If they stray off course, remind them of the goal to cut along the line. (Watch out for cutting too close to the fingers. For younger children, you can use no-cut plastic scissors, which are sold at many dollar stores.)

This helps:
Fine motor skills

String the beads —

Supplies needed:
Small beads
Pipe cleaners

Setup:
Nothing!

Therapy:
Show the child how to slide a bead onto the pipe cleaner, and then let them work. For fun, once they’re finished, you can bend the pipe cleaners into fun shapes or jewelry.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

IMG_6110[1]

Lacing boards —

Supplies needed:
Lacing boards (purchased ahead of time)
Lacing strings (come with purchase of boards)

Setup:
Nothing!

Therapy:
Ask the child to lace the string through the holes at the bottom of the dinosaur (or whichever animal you’ve chosen). Provide an example for them if they need it.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

Feed the face —

Supplies needed:
Tennis balls
Black marker
Buttons
Scissors

Setup:
Using marker, draw a face onto the front of each tennis ball. Using scissors, cut the “mouth” of the face open with a slit. Then cut a TINY vertical line on each side of the mouth so that the mouth may open if you stick your finger inside it. (DO NOT cut the entire chunk of material off.) Run your pinky finger inside it one time to make sure it will open far enough.

Therapy:
Ask the child to poke the buttons into the mouth of the ball. When finished, ask them to pull all the buttons back out.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

IMG_7277[1]

Tracing shapes —

Supplies needed:
Paper with shapes on it. (You can buy pre-made shape pages, or you can create your own with recycled paper and ballpoint pens.)
Brightly colored marker

Setup:
If you’re creating your own pages, then you’ll need to make them! If you bought pre-made ones, there is no setup.

Therapy:
Ask the child to trace along the outside of the shapes with their marker. If they want to, they can color the inside of the shapes once they’re done!

This helps:
Fine motor skills

Find the letter —

Supplies needed:
Blank paper
Marker
Sticker labels (a.k.a. garage sale stickers)

Setup:
Write letters all over the blank paper with your marker. Interchange between uppercase and lowercase letters, and be sure to write them sporadically and out of order. Then, taking note of which letters you wrote on the paper, write the same letters on the sticker labels, one at a time. (In case it isn’t clear, you MUST write the same letters with the same casing on the stickers as you wrote on the page.)

*For added challenge, you could write all lowercase letters on the page, and put the corresponding capital letters on the stickers.*

Therapy:
Ask the child to match the stickers to the letters on the page. Give help if needed.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

IMG_7310[1]

Letter and number tracing —

Supplies needed:
Paper with large letters or numbers on it. (You can buy pre-made letter/number pages, or you can create your own with recycled paper and a ballpoint pen.)
Brightly colored marker

Setup:
If you’re creating your own pages, then you’ll need to make them! If you bought pre-made ones, there is no setup.

Therapy:
Ask the child to trace along the letters or numbers with their marker.

This helps:
Fine motor skills

Hole-punching —

Supplies needed:
Pieces of recycled paper
Standard hole punch

Setup:
Nothing!

Therapy:
Allow child to punch as many holes as they want in the paper!

This helps:
Fine motor skills

IMG_7806[1]

Roll the dice! —

Supplies needed:
One die (or two dice, if preferred)
Small cubes, blocks, or rocks
Blank piece of paper (can be recycled)
Marker
Recycled “baby Puffs” container

Setup:
Turn the blank paper to a landscape position. Use your marker to draw vertical lines like I have in the picture above, which creates columns on the paper. If you’re using one die, draw five lines, creating six columns. If you’re using two dice, draw eleven lines, creating twelve columns.

At the bottom of each column, write a number between 1 and 6 (if using one die) or between 1 and 12 (if using two dice).

Fill the Puffs container with either small cubes, blocks, or rocks, depending on what you have available.

Therapy:
Allow the child to roll the die/dice. Whatever number they get, ask them to pull that many rocks/cubes/blocks out of the container and place them on the correct column. If you’re using blocks, the child can stack them, which increases motor skill challenge.

This helps:
Fine motor skills (when picking up pieces)
Gross motor skills (if whole-arm movement is used when shaking die/dice)

Marble races (Not Pictured)–

Supplies needed:
One or two pool noodles, depending on how you choose to do this activity.
2 to 4 small marbles

Setup:
You can either use the pool noodles in their original form (if you want to keep them in tact), or you can cut the pool noodles in half lengthwise (exposing the long line all the way down the center of it). Lean noodle against a medium-height surface, like a kitchen bar or the back of a living room recliner.

Therapy:
If using the original pool noodle, ask the child to poke the marble inside the pool noodle and watch it come out the other end. If using the sliced-open pool noodle, put both halves of the noodle side by side, and ask the child to put a marble inside the core of each noodle. Let go of the marbles and watch them race to the end! (If you’re struggling to understand what I’m explaining, you can find this activity on Pinterest.)

For fun with siblings or friends, get multiple noodles and allow everyone to race their marbles.

This helps:
Fine motor skills (when poking marbles inside holes)
Gross motor skills (when they end up using the noodles as swords… because you know they will)

IMG_8886[1]

Hanging things out to dry —

Supplies needed:
Long string or rope
Clothespins
(Optional: small items to hang up, like pictures cut out of recycled magazines)

Setup:
Bend down and tie the string to two of the legs on your kitchen table. Pull it tight before you tight, and make sure the string is firmly tethered before allowing child to play with it.

Therapy:
Show child how to squeeze the clothespins together so that they open and close. Ask child to hang clothespins on the rope/string, and allow them to hang up pictures if they want to.

*Always monitor children when strings/ropes are involved.*

This helps:
Fine motor skills (when squeezing clothespins)
Gross motor skills (from lifting arms up and down)

************

Our gross motor skill supplies are not pictured because they’re all currently out of commission. One is broken, one is covered in jelly, and the other is MIA (because life happens), but you can still assume what we do with each of them. Scooter boards are for sitting on and scooting around, trampolines are for jumping on, and jump ropes are for jumping over.

And, in case you missed it the other day, here is a picture of how we keep our supplies organized (this is a tiny portion of it):

felix at home ot

Let us know if these activities work for you, and how your budget turns out. We love to hear other people’s stories!

Happy helping, my friends!

How We Do Occupational Therapy at Home For ADHD: Tools, Time, and Cost


W. R. Cummings


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APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2016). How We Do Occupational Therapy at Home For ADHD: Tools, Time, and Cost. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 17, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/loving-adhd/2016/01/how-we-do-occupational-therapy-at-home-for-adhd-tools-time-and-cost/

 

Last updated: 22 Jan 2016
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.