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ADHD and Educational Therapy

Written by Molly Hartle.

Educational therapy is commonly used in the treatment of ADHD. Often combined with other treatments such a medication, educational therapy is an effective means of reducing those symptoms of ADHD that can interfere with positive learning outcomes. Unlike tutoring, which re-teaches and academic subject, and teaching which uses a textbook to teach a large group, educational therapy addresses underlying learning disabilities.1

Effect of Educational Therapy on ADHD

“Feelings and learning go together,” according to Susan Micari, a board-certified educational therapist and board of director for the Association for Educational Therapists (AET).2 Speaking at the June 2011 Conference of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder conference in June, Micari explained that one of the ways educational therapists help people with ADHD is to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment.

Part of what educational therapists do is to evaluate an individual’s learning ability and come up with strategies for enhancing is such as not talking out of turn and starting assignments early. Specifically, educational therapists can help mitigate learning disabilities arising from the following functions, often compromised in the brain of someone with ADHD:

• Planning and prioritization;

• Time management;

• Organization;

• Working memory;

• Metacognition (ability to take a “top-down” view of a problem);

• Response inhibition;

• Self-regulation of affect;

• Task initiation;

• Flexibility;

• Goal-directed persistence;

• Sustained attention;

• Disengaging attention; and

• Regulation of processing speed.3

Read more details about Educational Therapy.

Research Evidence on Educational Therapy

In a study of 14 underachieving children, Herbert E. Rie showed that therapeutic tutoring administered to children over a period of 10 weeks greatly enhanced the population’s ability to learn. Stated Rie “With tutoring, these children achieved at a rate of substantially exceeding expectation, for an approximately threefold change in the rate of learning. Specifically, the children scored higher in tests measuring their ability in reading, spelling and arithmetic.4

How to Use Educational Therapy

Educational therapy is commonly used in conjunction with other treatments such as medication, other types of therapies and those related to diet. Note: Not all educational therapists have degrees in psychotherapy. Thus, it’s important to have a ADHD diagnosis prior to seeing an educational therapist.

Once a proper diagnosis is made, educational therapists begin by assessing their clients’ learning ability. This differs from a person’s IQ. Many people with ADHD score high on IQ tests but struggle with academics due to an inability to pay attention to what is being learned. Such attention deficits can be caused by the way in which their brains process information and/or emotional issues. Educational therapists can help their clients to overcome these challenges by exploring different ways of learning and by providing a safe environment. Ideally, educational therapists meet with their client a minimum of twice a week for an hour. Treatment time varies per individual.

During sessions, educational therapists incorporate a number of techniques. For adults, Micari helps her clients to dissect those situations that may have led to a poor outcome. This involves helping the client to see what went wrong and what he or she could do to prevent a similar outcome from happening in the future.5 Kari Miller, a board-certified educational therapist and director of the Miller Educational Excellence, recommends a technique know as “bracketing distracting thoughts.”6 This involves categorizing thoughts into now, later or never. Now thoughts are thoughts pertaining to the task at hand such as a though regarding the content of what one is reading. “Later” thoughts such as a related idea are best addressed at a different point in time. Finally, never thoughts are best thrown out all together such as “This is stupid.” Kari also recommends a technique that can ADHD-diagnosed individuals get a better sense of how much time it takes to accomplish academic tasks such writing a good paper or conducting research.7

Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment

Educational therapists come from a variety of different backgrounds, including regular and special education, child development, speech and language, psychological and advocacy. To find a therapist, visit the Association of Educational Therapists website at

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  1. Association of Educational Therapists, “The History of Educational Therapy,” AET, 2007–2009, The Education Center, “Educational Therapy,” The Education Center,
  1. Susan Micari, "ADHD and the Role of the Educational Therapist," CHADD NYC Audio Presentation, June 2011,
  1. Kari Miller, PhD, “Educational Techniques for ADHD—What Are Executive Function Skills,” Miller Educational Excellence, December 20, 2009,
  1. Herbert E. Rie, “Therapeutic Tutoring for Underachieving Children,” Professional Psychology, (February 1974): 70–75.
  1. Susan Micari, "ADHD and the Role of the Educational Therapist," CHADD NYC Audio Presentation, June 2011,
  1. Kari, Miller, PhD, “Educational Techniques for ADHD—Bracketing Distracting Thoughts,” Miller Educational Excellence, December 17, 2009,
  1. Kari Miller, PhD, “Teaching Your ADHD Child How Much Attention Academic Tasks Require,” Miller Educational Excellence, December 17, 2009,

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