Understanding the Difference Between ADD and ADHD: How Occupational Therapy Can Help

As parents, it’s essential to be aware of the challenges your child may face when it comes to attention and focus. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two conditions that can impact your child’s ability to concentrate and stay on task.


ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, primarily affects a child’s ability to pay attention and maintain focus. Children with ADD often find it challenging to concentrate, get easily distracted, and may struggle with organizing tasks. They may appear forgetful or have difficulty completing their work. However, unlike ADHD, children with ADD typically do not display hyperactive or impulsive behaviors.

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, encompasses both attention difficulties and hyperactive/impulsive behaviors. In addition to struggling with attention and focus, children with ADHD may exhibit excessive energy, have trouble sitting still, and fidget frequently. They may act impulsively, interrupt others, or find it difficult to wait their turn.

Occupational Therapy and Its Role

Occupational therapy (OT) is a field of healthcare that focuses on helping individuals develop, regain, or maintain skills necessary for daily life activities. When it comes to ADD and ADHD, occupational therapy can be a beneficial intervention for children. Here’s how it can help:

  1. Developing organizational skills: Occupational therapists can work with children to develop strategies for organizing their tasks, materials, and time. These techniques can help children stay on track and complete tasks more efficiently.
  2. Enhancing attention and focus: Occupational therapists can employ various techniques and exercises to improve a child’s attention and focus abilities. They may introduce activities that require sustained concentration or provide sensory-based interventions to promote optimal attention levels.
  3. Managing sensory issues: Many children with ADD or ADHD may have sensory processing difficulties, where they may be overly sensitive or under-responsive to sensory input. Occupational therapy can help identify and address these sensory challenges, providing strategies to manage sensory issues and improve self-regulation.
  4. Promoting self-regulation and impulse control: Occupational therapists can guide children in learning self-regulation techniques and impulse control strategies. Through therapeutic activities and games, they can teach children how to pause, think, and make thoughtful choices instead of acting impulsively.
  5. Building social skills: Children with ADD or ADHD often struggle with social interactions due to difficulties with impulse control or attention. Occupational therapists can help them develop social skills, such as turn-taking, active listening, and empathy, to enhance their social interactions and relationships.