If he/she would just pay attention then…
they would know what to do
they wouldn’t be so impulsive
they wouldn’t be lazy
they would stay in their seat
they would be organized
they would do a good job
they could learn.
Familiar words we have all heard, right? Let’s think about the validity of these statements for a moment. Focus and attention are byproducts of engagement and understanding. I’ll say that again: In order to stay focused, one must be engaged with the task at hand. If the task (reading, writing, listening, etc.) is not at the “just right level” for a person, attention is the casualty.
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a learning different &/or autistic spectrum student in the classroom:
Pretend you are at a TED talk, listening to a fascinating speaker speak about a subject which is vaguely familiar but intriguing to you (technology in education, perhaps). How is your attention?
Suddenly, the speaker begins speaking in Yiddish, and the subject is the philosophy of astrophysics, and all the visuals are in Chinese. Are you focused?
How long will it take you to begin looking at the hat on the lady below to the left? Feel someone tapping their foot on the row of seats? See the audiotech guys lurking on the edges of the stage? Are you wondering when the next speaker will begin? How far away the bathroom is? Perhaps you feel hungry and thoughts turn to your stomach rumblings and lunch? This seat is too small. A seat stretch will fix it! What is that smell? Who’s humming? When will this be over?
Students who are presented instruction which is not at their just right level experience this multiple times every single day.
Jake, who cannot count to one hundred and does not differentiate between tens and ones hears Yiddish and sees Chinese when the subject is subtraction with regrouping. What will telling him to “focus” or “get back to work” accomplish?
Problems with attention and focus are often due to a student’s inability to understand and engage with what is happening in their environment.
Provide curriculum at the child’s learning level and presto, “attention” problems disappear.