Trouble Paying Attention
Are you a parent who says, “my child can play video games for hours on end, but he/she has trouble paying attention in school…he must be bored"?
This is explained by the way the brain pays attention. The brain has 2 attention systems:
Reactive Attention- located deep in the brain’s emotional center, automatic, instinctive, hard-wired, and involuntary. When something moves or is stimulating in the environment (i.e. sudden movement or change, sudden emotion), we automatically react and focus our attention.
Focused Attention- located right behind our forehead in the prefrontal cortex. We use this when we decide to pay attention. It is developed with a lot of practice. We have to train our brain to pay attention to things that aren’t naturally stimulating. Focused attention helps children develop critical thinking skills, and children who can reflect, synthesize, and analyze information have a big advantage over others.
Attention is the gateway to memory, and memory is the key to learning.
There is an attention crisis among American children. A growing number of “distracted kids” have overdeveloped reactive attention systems, and underdeveloped focused attention systems. We are raising a generation of children who are surrounded by screens and media. Therefore, their reactive attention systems are well-developed. Traditional ways that children have increased their focused attention have disappeared (i.e memory games, license plate games on road trips, word games).
How to build focused attention skills
- Keep media devices off where children are at play or doing homework
- Establish routines so the child knows what to expect (afterschool, bedtime)
- Let children figure out problems…How can we fix this? What can we do?
- Play card and board games- illustrates taking turns, setting goals, planning strategies (scrabble, chess, puzzles)
- Practice multi-step directions
- Have child follow written directions
- Read a story and ask child questions about the story
- Set homework timer