Managing Attention Difficulties
Attention is the cognitive process of concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things. Examples of attention include listening to one conversation while ignoring others that are going on in a room or focusing on what is happening in the classroom when there is a sports lesson going on outside.
How can I tell if my child has difficulties with attention?
Children with attention difficulties often display some or all the following behaviours:
- Making careless mistakes in schoolwork
- Difficulty sustaining attention during a task or when playing
- Seems to not listen when spoken to directly
- Doesn't follow through on instructions and doesn't finish schoolwork
- Difficulty organising complex tasks
- Loses important items
- Avoids or dislikes activities that need long periods of concentration, such as school projects
Is it Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)?
Not all children with attention difficulties have ADHD. All children will have periods of inattention at some point for various reasons such as being tired, hungry or disinterested in the current task. Children with ADHD display inattentive and hyperactive behaviours more often and intensely than other children the same age. Diagnosis of ADHD is a lengthy process that can be completed by a paediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist.
How can I manage my child's attention difficulties at home?
- Maintain eye contact with your child when giving instructions, and have him repeat instructions back to you so you can be sure he has understood.
- Keep the daily routine as predictable as possible, and prepare your child for changes in her routine.
- Keep verbal directions clear and brief.
- Provide healthy food options to enhance energy and concentration.
- Ensure your child has regular sleep and wake times for adequate rest.
How can my child's attention difficulties be managed in the classroom?
- Provide the child with low-distraction work areas, such as being seated near the teacher's desk, and away from temptations such as toys or computers.
- Establish specific classroom rules and follow them consistently.
- Surround the child with classmates who will serve as good role models.
- Where possible, write instructions down as well as giving them verbally, as written instructions serve as a reminder to stay on-task.
- Break large activities into small achievable steps, only giving the next instruction once the first step has been completed.
- Provide positive statements and praise when the child is focused and on-task, and decrease the focus on negative behaviours.
- Schedule more difficult or demanding tasks at the best times for concentrating, usually mornings.
- Allowing the child extra time to complete difficult tasks where possible.
We offer a range of services, workshops and individualized consultations to support children with attention difficulties or ADHD. Please contact us for more information.
View article references
- Information for this fact sheet has been gathered from the Better Health Channel, Raising Children Network, and child psychologist Kimberley O'Brien. Prepared by Psychologist Jacqui Olsson.