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Attention issues in children with learning difficulties are quite common. It is a major indication of ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). People with ADHD tend to have short attention span. They have difficulty in focusing and tend to be more hyperactive. They are unable to stay still and their focus jumps from one to another, causing a constant shift in their attention. Attention issues also rises from learning disabilities such as dyslexia and autism. People with dyslexia and autism have a different method of processing information when learning. Their condition requires them to be more focused in order to process information effectively. Their brain works more than other people do in this instance, as such, having these learning difficulties often drains the brain and causes them to lose their attention easily.
How to sustain attention of children with learning difficulties when learning?
Attention issues are always a challenge for children when it comes to learning, especially with those who have learning difficulties. However, there are ways to help them overcome these issues.
- Declutter the classroom or workspace
Setting a conducive place for learning is very important. For children with ADHD, it is best to keep the area clean and free from any distractions. Create a room solely for learning where electronic devices such as computers, iPads and television are removed. Keep them away from distractive noises such as sounds from the television or computer games and make sure the area is also well-ventilated. Remove any unnecessary items and only keep those you need for the lesson.
- Divide lessons or tasks into short segments
Long lessons are boring. It is recommended that you break it into short segments instead. Knowing the fact that the learning session is likely to be completed in a shorter time, there is higher chance for the children to be able to focus better during lesson. “For a child with ADHD, the general rule of thumb is that a task is most likely to get done when the child knows that “the end is in sight” at the beginning of the task.” (Additude Editors, 2011)
- Set a time frame for each task
You can try to set a timer for every task that you assign them to. This will help them be more conscious of how they should use their time properly. It challenges them to focus and finish the task within the given time frame. However, be considerate and realistic when setting time frame and constantly evaluate whether the time given is within the child’s capabilities.
- Give them a break
After the completion of a given task, give the children a few minutes to rest their mind. Do not jump from one task to another because it will bore and tire them. As mentioned above, they have a different way of processing information in their brain. That alone is exhausting. Pushing them too hard will exhaust their brain, causing them to lose attention even faster. Give them some time in between tasks to refresh their minds.
- Use visuals when teaching
Most children learn better through visual aid. They are likely to be more attentive when they see interesting illustrations. Children with autism has difficulty to stay engaged in tasks that they are not interested in but they pay attention to things they love. If something colourful or interesting catches their attention, they are likely to be more focused on it. Therefore, it will be more effective to use creative visuals and props when teaching. It boosts their interest in the lesson and it will also increase their hands-on participation in learning the concept taught.
- Do physical activities
Incorporate physical activities when teaching children with learning difficulties. You can do simple exercises before class to warm them up. These exercises can include singing songs, dancing and doing simple workout routines. This would prepare them for the lesson and help them to be more attentive. “Starting with 15 minutes of active play before a challenging task can also help a child stay more engaged.” (Reeves, 2015)
- Reward them
Positive reinforcement is effective in increasing your children’s attention span. It is good to give them rewards whenever they finish a task. For example, they can watch TV or play once they finish their work. This method motivates them to complete their work, and it also creates a routine whereby they start to understand the concept completing their tasks first before engaging in other activities. “Giving your child something to look forward to will energize him.” (Additude Editors, 2011)
- Be with them
Finally, be with them. For children with learning difficulties, they feel more motivated when they do their homework and study with the presence of another individual around. “Children can sustain attention longer when someone is physically with them.” (Additude Editors, 2011). Helping them with their homework and studies can also enable you to monitor their progress and bond with the child at the same time.
Additude Editors. (2011). When Focus Is Fleeting — and Painful. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.additudemag.com/short-attention-span-focus-tricks-for-students-with-adhd/
Reeves, D. (2015, July 10). 7 Ways to Increase a Student’s Attention Span. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/7-ways-increase-students-attention-span