Focusing

Sketch of child with head resting on hand and unused pencil and paper on desk

Welcome to the ‘Focusing’ page. Here you will learn about your child’s attention. Attention and focus are skills that are often evident both at home and in the classroom. At home, a child with limited attention skills may seem to space out a lot. She may not look up when you call her name. He may require 3-4 prompts before following your directions. Children who struggle with attention often take a long time to get ready for school in the morning. 

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At school, the teacher may note that your child does not adhere to classroom rules and routines. He may seem to be in his own world, two steps behind classmates in terms of gathering supplies, finishing work, and lining up for recess. You might find yourself saying, ‘he could do great work if he could focus long enough to finish it.’ In the articles under this domain, you will learn about various types of attention; identify where your child may be struggling, and understand what you can do to help.

Children who struggle with focusing may have a hard time ‘shifting attention.’ That is, it may be hard for your child to stop doing one activity and switch to another. This may be evident during center time in the classroom; where your child refuses to put down the iPad and change over to writer’s workshop. There may also be problems with sustained attention. Sustained attention; also known as focused attention, is the skill of sticking with something or staying on task. Children with poor sustained attention might be able to shift to a new task but cannot stay with it for very long.

Finally, within this domain is hyperactivity and inattention. If your child is hyperactive, he may be fidgety and move around constantly. Children who are inattentive tend to drift easily off topic, daydream, and lose focus often. Children who are both hyperactive and inattentive may have trouble sitting still and might seem to be bouncing from one activity to the next; lacking direction.

Although many children with these challenges may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, there are a variety of other reasons why a child’s attention may be impaired. Some children with poor attention have emotional problems such as anxiety or depression. Children with anxiety often ‘freeze up’ and cannot focus as well. Children with depression may not focus because they may lack motivation to complete tasks, not caring as much about the outcome, and tiring out easily. Other neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism impact attention skills. Children with autism tend to be able to sustain their attention, with adequate reinforcement, but struggle with shifting attention. In the articles that follow, you will learn the types of attention problems and the relative level of concern associated. Sometimes at-home interventions are enough to help your child improve his or her attention. Other times, clinical help may be required. These articles will help you discern which attention areas may be problematic for your child and what you can do as a parent to help.