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Attention skills

Different types of attention

Managing attention is a key skill that is fundamental to everything we do. There are different types of attentional capabilities:

Sustained attention

Sustained attention is sometimes referred to as concentration. It involves focusing on a task for a prolonged period of time without drifting off or getting distracted. It includes being able to keep focused on a task even if things change around you, keeping alert.

Selective attention

Selective attention is focusing on a particular thing and not attending to other aspects by filtering out distractions and irrelevant information.

Divided attention

Divided attention means paying attention to more than one thing at once. For example, listening to the teacher while making notes.

Maximising attentional skills

  • Minimise distractions
  • Consider seating position in the classroom or during activities
  • Short bursts of activity followed by rest breaks, down time or movement opportunities
  • Set clear targets and goals with associated rewards or incentives
  • Break things down into manageable parts
  • Engage in activities for gradually longer periods of time such as gradually increasing time spent on homework
  • Promote active listening, for example by asking questions
  • Regular check-ins during extended tasks
  • Written information or outlines that can be referred back to if the person drifts off and loses their thread
  • Simplify information such as introducing one problem per page
  • Focus on a single activity such as listening or doing (not both at the same time)
  • Introduce prompts to encourage checking of work, and building this into a routine
  • Good sleep and regular physical activity
  • Good nutrition and regular meals
Information:

If attentional difficulties continue to be a significant barrier to a child’s learning and development, it may be helpful to talk to their doctor about possible assessments and treatments.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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