Well, parents, it’s that time again. Early fall comes with the joys of school supply lists, outfit shopping, and early bedtimes.
It’s time to think about closing the lemonade stand for the season and finishing that summer camp laundry. For parents whose children have a learning disability, the start of the school year marks some serious stress, as your son or daughter will undoubtedly take some time to get acclimated to the change in schedule.
Here are some tips for you and your child to get off to a good start this year as we tackle attention span problems head on, in the classroom and at home.
Low attention span, in children, is most often attributed to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), though many other causes can contribute to your child’s inability to focus.
Autism, depression, food sensitivities and sensory issues are all commonly linked to disrupted attention patterns. As such, it is vital to review your child’s progress regularly with his teachers and treatment team to ensure that his or her specific needs are being met.
Here are some suggestions to consider while building a strategy for your child:
- Provide an outlet for your child and encourage taking breaks when he’s tired.
Your child probably loves to move. A child with a more active personality is likely to require movement to focus! Talk with your child’s teachers- there may be a specific chore around the classroom that can be assigned to your child, such as sharpening pencils or even running papers to and from the office.
You’d be surprised at the benefits some physical activity can have for your child when he’s struggling to focus.
Likewise, the child with attention problems will likely need to rest as well. Let’s face it – living with an atypical attention span is exhausting!
Also, “focus fatigue” can set in when your child has been set to a task for an extended period of time. This is why taking moving breaks or even providing time to just “veg out” in between assignments can help relieve the exhaustion.
2. Keep your child’s senses engaged.
Experience in the educational psychology field has shown that stimulating your child’s senses can improve their focus and function in the classroom and at home.
This is especially true for children with ADHD and Autism. Stimulating a child’s balance by having him sit on a special bouncy seat, or using body awareness exercise to stimulate the proprioception sense (or awareness of oneself in space) will help your child focus, even though he probably won’t be sitting still.
“Fidget toys” will also provide just enough focus in a sensory area for your child’s learning centers to stay engaged. Taste is another vital sense that, when stimulated, helps his or her brain to work well.
Having your child suck or chew on hard candy is one way to keep their brain stimulated in a way that is discreet and less distracting to their classmates. Also, in children with Autism and developmental disabilities, candy is often used to encourage good behaviors at school.
3. Make use of your resources!
Whether your child’s attention problems require clinical support or not, it is crucial to build a behavior plan and share it with your child. If your child has an Individualized Education Plan, his or her team will be an expert resource for you and your child and will serve as a skilled liaison between parents and teachers.
If your child does not make use of any professional services, your direct involvement with teachers can keep you clued in to your child’s progress. Keep your spouse, babysitters, Sunday school teachers, and your child’s siblings “in the loop” about the special needs of your son or daughter.
4. Reinforce your behavioral plan at home.
It is important to remain consistent! Children with specialized learning needs benefit greatly from a steady schedule of homework, snacks, activities, mealtimes, and bedtimes. In fact, poor sleep habits are directly linked to attention issues, so paying special attention to his or her sleep pattern will improve their attention span before, during, and after school.
Lastly, always show compassion with your child. Remember that his brain might work very differently from yours, or from your other children’s. Always reinforce good behaviors and show patience even when you are frustrated. Never bring your child to feel shame for their learning issues – lack of confidence can also interrupt the learning process because your child may “check out” and give up without trying.
With good support from family and teachers, children with learning disorders can increase their capacity for focus and performance in school. Ultimately, encouraging effective learning techniques as they move into adolescence and adulthood will further serve your child as he continues to adapt to life, given his atypical set of abilities.
Freelance writer, Benjamin Muskal Contributed this article on behalf of Candy Crate.