Effective attention is what allows us to screen out irrelevant stimulation in order to focus on the information that is important in the moment. This also means that we are able to sustain attention which then allows us to engage in a task for long enough to repeatedly practice it. Repeated practice is crucial for skill development. Attention also allows us to pay attention to the important details (e.g. in language: “do this, then…that before you brush your teeth”).
What are the building blocks necessary to develop attention?
Receptive (understanding) Language
If a child has difficulties with attention they might:
Not attend to a task when required/requested to do so.
Miss details in instructions.
Repeatedly makes the same mistakes (due to not learning from past attention).
Be unable to listen to all of the information presented.
Find it physically difficult to either calm down (as they are too physically active) or to ‘wake up’ as they appear sleepy and lethargic.
Begins a task but then gets distracted by something else and then ‘forgets’ to complete what was asked of them.
Speech and/or occupational therapy intervention can help a child by:
Ensure the child is able to engage in/complete academic tasks for long enough that they learn mastery.
Develop social interaction, behavior, and play skills.
Help further develop receptive and expressive language skills.
School transition may be difficult if they are unable to follow instructions within the educational setting (e.g. classroom instructions, academic task requirements).
If left untreated what can difficulties with attention lead to? When children have difficulties with attention, they might also have difficulties with:
Anxiety and stress in a variety of situations leading to difficulty reaching the child’s academic potential.
Behavior, such as the child being unable to regulate themselves appropriately to settle and attend to a task for extended periods of time.
Challenges working in small groups with others for play or academic projects.
Following instructions at school and later in life, in the work environment.
Accessing the curriculum because they’re unable to attend to tasks longer enough to complete assessment criteria or practice to mastery level.
Making friends, coping in social settings and possible mental health issues in later life.
Kid Sense. (n.d.). Attention and Concentration . Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/attention-and-concentration/.