Updated: Jun 16
I often write about reading skills being the single most important skill for your dyslexic child to learn, but you actually have a more important issue to remedy if your child has attention issues.
What do we mean by attention issues?
You, most likely, already know what giving something your full attention looks like - you are alert and you stop yourself from being distracted either by things going on around you or by other thoughts in your head.
You have the ability to focus in on the task at hand. You probably also know how easy or difficult you find this to do and we all have days where we feel unfocused and unable to concentrate.
A lot of children with dyslexia experience attention difficulties for a large part of their day.
What do attention problems look like?
Your child may not find it easy to decide what should get their attention with the result that they 'flit' between different things and can't keep their mind focused on a task for more than a few minutes at a time. They jump between lots of different activities or they may sit and day dream.
Why does your child have attention issues?
If your child has been assessed as having dyslexia or you strongly suspect that they do, then they will have a weak working memory.
According to Jodi Holmes of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University, working memory in children helps to maintain their focus in the classroom and also supports their learning.
If you want to check out your child's attention and working memory issues, then a full diagnostic assessment will be required. These explore your child's learning strengths and weaknesses and the report that is provided afterwards will explain whether your child has attention issues and how to address them, both at home and at school.
This is a key step in understanding your child and getting the most effective help for them.
What effect does this have on their learning?
To take in information your child needs to give it their attention. If they aren't giving their attention ( because they are distracted or they are unaware what they should be concentrating on) then they will not take in the information. In effect, they are missing out on a lot of learning which is going to affect their school performance.
What do teachers report as being the results of inattention?
The key problems that teachers see as a result of inattention are poor academic progress, difficulty in following multi-step instructions, failure to complete tasks, problems keeping their place in complex activities such as writing as well as the child showing distracted behaviour such as day dreaming or being disruptive.
How can you ensure your child progresses at school?
The starting point really is to check out whether your child's attention is a learning issue and a full diagnostic assessment can be the place to start.
Part of the assessment can be to check attention on an index - if there is a real weakness here that you may also want to visit your GP afterwards to see if your child has Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Attention can also be an issue for students on the autistic spectrum too.
The key points to take away are:
inattention and lack of concentration are key problems affecting school performance
you can explore attention during a full diagnostic assessment to see if this is a key weakness and then receive ideas and strategies for how to help as well as advice on any further steps which should be taken via a GP.