Increasing Attention

Many children with learning disabilities, including crossover children, are unable to sustain attention appropriately. Attention has three major roles in the learning process:

  1. It allows us to focus on a particular problem for an extended period.
  2. It helps us retrieve inactive memory elements when they are needed for current problem solving.
  3. It allows us to shift the focus and content of our attention when it is required.

The inability to maintain sufficient control over these three attention processes is the essence of attention deficit.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association lists the following characteristics of ADHD. Children may be diagnosed as inattentive, as hyperactive-impulsive, or as a combination of both. Children must exhibit six or more of the criteria for more than a six-month period.

Inattentiveness (Exhibits six or more)
  • Failure to pay close attention to details; careless mistakes in schoolwork.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention while working or playing.
  • Does not listen even when spoken to directly.
  • Does not follow instructions or complete assigned tasks.
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort.
  • Often loses materials and books.
  • Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Hyperactivity (Exhibits six or more combined with impulsivity)
  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  • May leave seat in classroom when it is inappropriate.
  • May run or climb excessively or in inappropriate situations.
  • May have difficulty in playing quietly.
  • Is often "on the go."
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn.
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others.

One has only to observe a child with ADHD for a few minutes in a classroom before it becomes obvious that the setting makes it difficult for the child to stay on task. The following are helpful strategies to assist an inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive student:

  • Use carrels or individual workplaces. When the use of the "office" is handled appropriately, it can become rewarding rather than punishing.
  • Use a secret sign between teacher and child to signal that the child should consider moving to the carrel. The development of an "It's our secret way to help you" system will reinforce the positive aspects of the experience.
  • Allow the child to walk to a designated spot, stretch to "get the kinks out," and return to working at his or her seat. This "movement" corner can be a small space designated by a piece of carpet or by tape on the floor.

Council for Exceptional Children

Provided in partnership with The Council for Exceptional Children.

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