We have been working through a lot of challenging temperament and developmental issues of children in early childhood and the ways caregivers can have a positive impact. This post about the child who has issues with attention span or persistence is the concluding post in this set.
Your child’s attention span
Children who have low persistence and attention span seem like they cannot stay focused to finish a task. Children who have high persistence and a long attention span are children who stay at a task or will not change focus easily.
Some strategies for children who have low persistence and attention span might be:
- Teach the child how to ask for help and use a time strip as a visual cue as the child finishes an activity. Make sure the child returns to task after a break.
- Slowly increase frustration tolerance by building up the child’s ability to play independently.
- Use developmentally appropriate activities.
- Reinforce the child for attention and effort frequently.
- Do not allow the child to leave everything unfinished and make sure the child returns to the task.
- Use things the child is interested in and the types of activities they enjoy to teach and keep an activity going.
- Praise task completion and persistence.
- Break the task up into pieces to help the child complete a frustrating task.
- Plan brief periods of working on an activity in an uncluttered, consistent place.
- Offer guidance and assistance in completing tasks. Stay close while the child is working on a task and help out if it becomes too difficult.
- When getting a child to complete a task, use touch, pictures, and verbal instruction.
- Determine which sensations the child responds to best and use them to capture their attention.
- Encourage the child with good verbal skills to talk them through fine motor tasks they find difficult.
- Help the child to keep attending by trying to avoid them constantly shifting tasks or games.
For children who have high persistence and attention span (meaning they tend to not let it go):
- Choose your battles carefully and don’t get locked into power struggles between tasks.
- Look for ways to say, “Yes you may.”
- Use errorless learning tasks (tasks that you know they will be able to do) to make sure the child’s responses are correct and can be reinforced.
- Make absolute or non-negotiable rules clear to the child and have them stick by following through with them.
- Use negotiation instead of absolute rules when appropriate.
- Notice persistence when it is positive, for example, like sticking to a task.
- Give a warning when a task must be interrupted.
- Set up a routine of having work, then break, and more work to segment a task that is difficult for a child.
- Teach the child to estimate the time needed to complete a task.
- Let the child know that sometimes he will have to stop before a task is completed.
Prevent frustrations for you and the child
Sometimes these normal developmental and temperamental characteristics that our children have can make it very challenging for us to help them grow up in a balanced and healthy way. We can prevent all kinds of life frustrations, obsessions and difficult behavior by helping them through early childhood development using temperament strategies outlined in posts 6 through 6i.
Each child is unique and yes, there are a number of temperamental issues of which to be aware, but understanding them will provide a priceless tool. It is significant that we understand the different temperamental behaviors of our child and help them navigate these tendencies in a healthy way. As we relate to them in this way, we can prevent destructive labels, shame and anxiety in their lives while promoting their strengths and grow their self-esteem and worth in their world.
I know this has been a rather comprehensive set of posts but I think these issues are so important to our wonderful parents and caregivers who are responsible to care for our children. Thanks for continuing to read Lakeside Connect.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 55-56.