Managing Attention and Building Focus


Vou Akinsehinwa                                January 2018

 Some children on the autism spectrum find it difficult, sometimes impossible to stay on task for extended periods of time. This is especially true for those who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  This makes carrying out tasks and eventually achieving set targets difficult. To manage attention and build focus in such children you can:-

  • Eliminate all distractions: Remove every form of auditory and visual distractions from the work environment. All phones and other objects that create sound should be kept out. All the walls must be as bare as possible. Where possible, hang up a “Do not Disturb” sign on the door and instruct those around to respect it.
  • Schedule difficult task in the mornings and after break: this way, you can get the best of your child who is well rested and therefore will be more coordinated and focused.
  • Use positive reinforcements: always reward good behavior. This will motivate your child knowing that he/she is going to enjoy a reward after completing the task. The expectations of this reward will keep him focused to finish.
  • Use a visual schedule board: A visual schedule board helps the child see ahead of time what the plans for the period will be. Having a predictable routine gives your child a sense of security thereby reducing problem behaviours. Always plan activities with what the child enjoys doing after every task. Tasks that involve movement or hands on activities should be done at alternate times with more demanding ones. Where there will be changes in routine, inform the child ahead of time.
  • Divide big task into small bits: this will reduce the long stretch of doing one thing into short spans. for example, writing a two paged note can be divided into 4 with another activity or short break coming in between. This way, the sitting span is not too long and boring for your child. However, always ensure that you have a set timeline and stick to it.
  • Be flexible: always allow extra time for work to finish.

Your child will find it easier to behave well if he has a good understanding of what is expected of him. Always give clear, easy-to-follow verbal instructions and you can model these instructions aid help understanding. Also, always ensure that your child is well rested and well fed with healthy food options at all times for concentration.


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