Addressing Attention Concerns
There are three types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. Inattentive ADHD is often overlooked or left untreated and is more common in girls than boys. Symptoms include difficulty with organization, following directions, recalling and understanding information, frequent daydreams, becoming bored or distracted easily, and switching tasks without completing them. Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, the most commonly diagnosed type, can involve feeling restless, constant motion or fidgeting, impulsive or inappropriate behavior, and excessive talking. Combined inattentive-hyperactive-impulsive ADHD refers to individuals with a number of symptoms from both types.
One challenge of diagnosing ADHD is the prevalence of attention concerns with other learning issues. When a student is having difficulty hearing information correctly, following along in class, or understanding the subject studied, he or she is likely to start tuning out or engaging in other activities as a way of dealing with this frustration. Students who haven’t had enough sleep, are hungry or uncomfortable, or preoccupied with external fears and concerns, such as a sick loved one or being bullied by peers, may have difficulty maintaining focus as well.
Behavior therapy and medication are among the most common treatments for ADHD. However, there are a number of suggested interventions that can be done to help students manage persistent attention concerns. Not all interventions are appropriate for every student or classroom situation. So, it’s important to talk with your child’s teacher(s). Discuss which options might provide the best opportunity for success without disrupting the class routine or distracting other students. You should also include your health care professional whenever considering making changes to a recommended routine or treatment.
Focus is often best earlier in the day. When the option exists, challenging tasks should be completed first. For example, scheduling a math or reading lesson first thing in the morning and movement or outdoor activities in the afternoon may yield better results than leaving a lengthy lecture or assigned reading for later in the day.
Studies performed by the University of Illinois found a link between time spent outdoors and increased focus with ADHD. These findings suggest that spending time in natural settings such as a park, garden, beach, or camp ground can increase attentiveness.
Break It Up
There’s a reason teachers of young children only have students sit for short periods and incorporate movement into most activities. Students with attention challenges respond best when tasks are concise and include prompt feedback. Long assignments should be broken into simple, practical steps with time limits.
There are a number of activities designed to help improve attention and stamina. ADDitude magazine recommends a game called Champion Distractor. A child is given a task and another is told to try and distract the individual from completing it. This could mean yelling, singing, or running back and forth, while a child reads a paragraph aloud without stopping. There are also a number of online alternatives in addition to classic listening games like Red Light, Green Light, Freeze Dance, Musical Chairs, and Simon Says.
Let them Fidget:
Many students with ADHD focus better when they are able to fidget. Alternatives such as being able to stand or stretch during a lesson, quietly squeezing a stress ball or similar object, or running fingers along a piece of Velcro under a chair or desk can fill this need without distracting others.
Talk to your child about the situations where focus is the most challenging. This will help determine if accommodations are necessary and provide a place to start. Finding what works will likely be trial and error in the beginning. Finding the appropriate intervention can take time. Don’t give up. Even small changes can yield great results.