When you have a child with special needs, especially one who has problems with paying attention, parenting and teaching can seem to be insurmountable tasks. You worry that your child will not be able to learn or even hold a conversation. I have been there with my own child sometimes wondering aloud, "How do I get through to this kid?" I have spent many hours, days, and years helping my son who has severe attention deficits. In all this time, I have found some ideas which work for us in helping him to attend that I will share with you here. Know that these ideas will not work for all children. Every child is different and it is best that you tailor your therapy, teaching, and guidance according to your child's unique learning needs.
Here are ten methods and techniques which have helped my son to increase his attention:
1. This tip was given by one of my son's speech teachers. If you want the child to pay attention to what you are saying place the child's hand on your throat so that they can feel the vibrations as you are speaking. Anything which increases the number of sensory modalities to receive incoming information the better.
2. Use different voice inflections, tones, and volume to gain attention. Try whispering as it makes the child lean forward to hear you. Try out silly voices with varying tones to make your child take notice. Think of how actors get the attention of their audience. Another tick is to use songs or music. Remember school house rock? If you are a certain age you will surely remember "Conjunction Junction What's Your Function?" It was easy to remember because the material was presented in a song.
3. If your child likes to fidget, buy some sensory toys for him or her to play with in between times that you want their attention. You can find such toys in the dollar store or on-line at companies such as Oriental Trading Company. My son has squishy balls, light up balls, modeling clay to squeeze, bubble wrap, tubes with sparkles, small slinkys and more. We keep these toys in a container for his breaks. Having these breaks to fidget really helps him to concentrate when he needs to.
4. There is much research to show that exercise has many mental and physical benefits. I find that my son is better able to pay attention after spending time exerting energy. Take your child to the park and let them run , play a sport or do whatever they enjoy as a form of physical exercise. We have both a small indoor trampoline and a big therapy ball for him to roll on for when the weather is not good for going outside.
5. Use the child's natural interests to gain their attention. My child is very interested in trains. We find things which appeal to this interest as in worksheets with trains, reading stories about trains, and building vocabulary around this theme. Make learning fun if you can by utilizing your child's passions.