Does your child have a short attention span? Children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) often jump from task to task without finishing any of them. They feel trapped by any task that takes longer than the time they’re able to maintain focus. Improving this skill usually requires breaking tasks into smaller segments while working to increase the child’s attention span.
Sustained attention is the ability to maintain focus on a task or assignment a child considers uninteresting or difficult -- in other words, schoolwork and homework. A young child can typically complete a five-minute chore with only occasional supervision. The average teenager can do , with short breaks, for one to two hours. But for ADD/ADHD children, it's completely different. Try these tricks for increasing focus and attention in your ADDer, both at school and at home.
ADD/ADHD Focus in the Classroom
Teach students how to pay attention. At the beginning of the school year, ask students to demonstrate what attention and inattention look like. Say, “I’m going to start talking. I want this side of the room to act out what paying attention looks like, and I want the other side to act out what inattention looks like.” After you have done this exercise, talk about the differences you saw between the two sides of the room.
Take 10 minutes every day to practice paying attention. Set a kitchen timer for random intervals (one to three minutes), and ask students to place a check mark on their paper if they were paying attention when the alarm went off. This will help students become aware of how long it takes before they drift off. There are smartphone apps -- Interval Minder is a good one -- that allow you to program an iPhone to sound a tone, create a screen flash, or vibrate at random intervals as short as five to 10 seconds.
This article appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of ADDitude. SUBSCRIBE TODAY to ensure you don't miss a single issue.