Task-relevant sound distracts too!
New occupational therapy notions for Attention Deficit
Sara Nakhai 1 , Fatemeh Behnia 2
1 University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy
2 University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences (USWR), Tehran, Iran
Background: Research shows that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) find it hard to ignore environmental sounds and are easily distracted
by them when doing a task, while the effects of task-relevant sounds have
barely been studied. We compared “silently-whispered and/or softly-
pronounced verbal instructions” to “loud and serious ones” during occupational
therapy (OT) activities for ADHD children to see whether task-relevant sounds
(here, therapist’s voice) could also have negative effects on the symptoms.
24 ADHD children referred to the OT clinic by child psychiatrists received
OT, half of them with silently-whispered and/or softly-pronounced verbal
instructions (G1=12) while the other half with normally loud and serious
verbal instructions (G2=12). Their parents joined family group
discussions once every three sessions. During family discussions the
child’s problems and improvements were discussed. After 20 sessions a
final family group discussion was held to see if the parents of the two
groups reported any difference. we also asked the psychiatrists their
professional opinions about each child.
According to parents, both groups improved but G1 showed more improvement
than G2. They showed wider attention spans and higher concentration levels. G1
parents reported more purposeful and adaptive behaviors, ability to follow
instructions, obeying rules, self-entertaining with functional activities for a longer
time, more concentration while doing homework, decrease in impulsive behaviors
and emotional overreactions. The psychiatrists were satisfied with improvements of
both groups, but were specifically pleased with G1’s improvements and in some
cases lowered or stopped the medication dosage for G1.
This study shows that not only environmental (task-irrelevant)
sounds but also task- relevant ones could negatively affect ADHD
children. Although further research is necessary, but our results
could open new doors to therapeutic techniques for ADHD children,
like suggesting parents, teachers, and therapists speak softly and
quietly to them with lower than normal voice.
Sara Nakhai sara.nakhai @ unimore.it
Fatemeh Behnia f_behnia @ uswr.ac.ir