Students who have trouble paying attention in school need help in order to be successful. When the teacher explains what today’s lesson is about or tells his students what to do, children who cannot pay attention get left behind. They have a choice to wait for their teacher to notice they need help or to get into mischief. Depending on their age, they often choose mischief since that is a lot more fun. These kids often have a reputation of being the “class clown” and are disciplined by their teachers. If this sounds like your child, there are some things you can try that might help.
Provide structure and predictability. Parents can explain this to their son’s teacher. If he can enter the classroom knowing that the first thing he needs to do every day is to get his homework out and begin doing the warm-up activity, he can get settled in more quickly. It takes time to establish this habit, but it can help all students to be more productive, not just those with attention problems.
Use color-coded binders for each class. It is easier for your child to remember to turn in homework and to get out what she needs if everything is organized the same way for each class. This can become part of the structure and predictability she needs. Once again, this takes time to learn, and she will need a lot of help in the beginning keeping everything in its place. The time will be well-spent, however, because the end result is fewer missing assignments.
Teach her to move constantly in ways that do not distract others. She can squeeze a small balloon filled with sand or use another type of soft rubber ball. She can learn how to wiggle her foot or tap her fingers on her knees without making noise. A child with attention issues can sit still and be quiet, but there will be no energy left for anything else. Wiggling can often relieve the stress of sitting still and allow her to pay better attention.
Problems with attention are common, but they do not have to mean school failure. Providing structure and predictability, helping to create a consistent organization system, and teaching how to wiggle can all help with attention at school.
These same suggestions can help at home, too. Begin by establishing daily routines at home which help family life run more smoothly. Provide plenty of time for exercise and play. Wiggle-time at home does not have to be quiet! Finally, make sure to tell your child that you love him just the way he is. These kids often feel that no one likes them, because the adults in their life fuss at them a lot.
Livia McCoy spent many years teaching upper school science. She currently serves as Dean of Student Support at The Steward School in Richmond, VA. Livia sees each student as an individual with great potential to learn, and feels her job is to help every student figure out how to be successful in school. Livia says, “I blog about the many smart students who struggle in school because they think differently or have attention issues. I share what I have learned helping these students, their parents and teachers to see how they can experience success in school.” Livia welcomes comments on her blog at SchoolFamily.com.