Shifting attention:

is an executive functioning skill. In order to shift attention, a child will have to momentarily pause what they are focused on, in order to establish their attention on something else that might be happening in their environment. For example, it could be a sudden loud noise or someone walking into the room. The child should then be able to shift their attention back to what they were doing previously. Shifting attention is an important skill that a child requires in order to be successful in a classroom environment. Therefore, shifting attention means that the child can pause what they were doing and evaluate their environment. The child would rely on shifting attention if they were to cross a road or assess the safety of a particular environment. We often use physical prompts to guide the child to learn to shift their attention. Over time, we increase the distance of how far away we introduce the noise or change in the environment so that the child can practice shifting attention and master this important skill.

Sustained attention:

is also an executive functioning skill and refers to the ability to maintain focus on relevant stimuli for an extended period of time. Sustained attention is an important cognitive skill as it helps the child to carry out tasks successfully. A child will need to sustain their attention long enough in order to grasp the teacher’s instruction and process the information presented in a classroom. When teaching sustained attention, we increase the time we expect the child to sustain attention in small increments. A timer can be used with a reinforcer to encourage the child to sustain their attention for longer periods of time. Sustained attention is a skill we want our kids to be able to exercise independently without needing regular prompts. Drawing on the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) we implement different strategies to help a child master the skill of sustained attention.

Divided attention:

is being able to multitask and belongs to the category of executive functioning skills. It is a function of behavior. It’s being able to respond to multiple things at once. A child must be doing something and still be able to recognize that something else occurred in their environment. A child may be so engrossed in a task they are currently occupied with, that they cant focus on another instruction being given to them. To help them learn to divide attention we start with using something obvious, like for example, an alarm clock going off – something high volume that will attract their attention. The child needs to realize the value in recognizing something else occurring in the environment and then they will be more successful at dividing attention. It’s possible to teach this skill and will certainly help the child become more successful in the classroom.

Joint attention:

is being able to share a social experience with somebody else. It involves two people paying attention to the same thing, intentionally and for social reasons. It’s a shared experience and it has to involve another person. Examples of joint attention skills include following someone else’s gaze or pointed fingers to look at something. Joint attention is a foundational social skill. Children in a classroom won’t want to engage or establish a friendship with another child if they never get a response and cant share an experience. It’s for these reasons that we will always work on teaching this important skill to ensure success in a classroom.