October is ADHD Awareness Month, so let’s talk about attention. Does your child take a long time to complete their homework? Have you heard things from the teacher like, “your child needs to pay more attention in class,” or “he/she is distracted and needs to focus more?” Well, it turns out that it is not as simple as “paying more attention.” There are actually three different kinds of attention (according to the all kinds of minds website). I’ve summarized the three types below and added some strategies that might be helpful below that. (I used the pronoun, “they” rather than “he/she” to simplify.)
1. Mental Energy is really about how awake the brain is and how consistent the energy level stays.
- Alertness –can they concentrate when necessary?
- Sleep habits – do they get a good night’s sleep and wake rested?
- Mental effort- do they have enough energy to finish what they start
- Performance consistency-is their work of the same quality from day to day?
2. Processing Energy is about how well your child can put the pieces together.
- Can they separate important from unimportant?
- Do they connect new information to what they already know?
- How deep do they concentrate?
- Can they concentrate until they get through the task?
- Can they put the pieces together even when not interested in the topic?
3. Production Energy is about the consistency and quality of their work.
- Do they think ahead to what the end result should be?
- Do they consider different options before proceeding?
- Is the quality of their work consistent?
- Do they work fast, slow or just right?
- Do they learn from previous mistakes?
- Clear their working memory (use our “brain dump” technique)
- Get some exercise
- Create a sleep routine
- Have them do their homework at the same time daily
- Help them find what is interesting about their work
- Let them get creative
- Use different colored highlighters to separate multistep directions or to highlight important details
- Use graphic organizers with topic headings so facts can be written in easily
- Actively preview before getting started and ask why is this important?
- Work in short blocks of time
- Discuss what they already know about a topic before beginning (Use kwl charts)
- Start with the end in mind. Have them sketch out what the finished product will look like and work backwards (consider at least two approaches)
- Design a rubric for homework together and use it to review (students should rate and then explain their scores)
- Create “strategy sheets” that show the steps of the process to free up working memory space
- Use graphic organizers to plan
- Review all work for errors and omissions (work from top down, don’t skip around)
If you’ve had success at using a different strategy and would like to help others struggling with the same challenges, please let me know below so we can learn from each other.