Focus and concentration are key skills for anyone who wants to succeed at school and in life. For some children, this comes naturally but what if it doesn’t for your child? Can you change this? Yes, you can!
The ideas I am going to take you through here are beneficial for any child with concentration battles, perhaps because of their Dyslexia or perhaps they have a more extreme difficulty through having Attention Deficit Disorder ( ADD/ADHD) as well.
Warning: You will need time and patience to see these steps through. The steps to helping your child are:
Step 1: Observe your child, so that you get a good idea of how long they can concentrate on a certain task for.
You will find that this varies depending on the task they are being expected to do. For example, many parents have told me that their child can concentrate for hours when playing computer games but won’t spend time concentrating on homework.
When observing your child, make a note of the tasks that they can concentrate on and how long they can do this for. Also make a note of those tasks which they find difficult to concentrate on and, again, how long they can concentrate on those tasks for.
Once you know how long they can concentrate for, extend the time spent on this task, by small amounts, like an extra minute doing homework. Once they can concentrate for this extra minute, add another minute and so on.
I used this method very effectively for a child with ADD, going from flat refusal to do any writing to writing for around 15-20 minutes ( to give you an idea of time involved I saw the child once every week in term time and this happened over a 12 month period). Patience is the key here, and it is surprising how quickly the extra minutes add up to a significantly longer period of time.
Step 2: Look at the ‘whole child’. What I mean by this is assess the child’s whole environment.
First, look at your child’s sleep patterns and be honest about whether they are getting the amount that they need at their age – roughly 9 hours per night. I personally don’t agree with children having televisions and computers in their bedrooms so I would suggest that if your child is getting too little sleep then these items should be removed. Too little sleep = little concentration.
Then, look at their diet. Is it high in processed foods and sugar? One of my clients experimented with taking out processed foods and foods high in sugar ( the sugar which gets added to food rather than naturally occurring sugars) and reported that her child’s concentration levels improved significantly. I know this can be difficult to do ( and I have just munched a couple of chocolate biscuits) but perhaps think about cutting down on these food as oppose to completely cutting them out.
Protein is known to stimulate levels of dopamine which helps concentration; so having a diet high in protein through lean meat, eggs and nuts can also help .Can you increase your child’s protein intake?
How much exercise does your child get? Exercise helps the brain to stay oxygenated which also helps it to stay sharp. If your child has been sat down at school all day, then exercise after school can help them focus and concentrate on tasks once they are back at home.
Finally, are you setting up an atmosphere at home which can lead to a good level of concentration? Calming background music and having a fish tank have been noticed to have a good effect on boys’ concentration and focus in particular.
Step 3: When you want your child to concentrate on something, gain their attention first.
Make sure you are in the same room as them, rather than shouting up the stairs, which we are all guilty of doing! Give them advance warning, say 10 minutes notice, of doing something. For example, that in 10 minutes time you want them to be downstairs to complete their homework / set the table for dinner/ pack their school bag or whatever it is.
Step 4: You have gained their attention by being in the same room as them, to get them to listen, use short sentences and tell them one thing at a time so that they don’t get overloaded.
For example, if their task is to clean out their pet’s hutch, then just ask them to do this. If this is a task they do weekly, then consider having a pictorial diagram of the steps they need to do to complete the task.
Step 5: Play and read with your child .
Their concentration can be improved through playing together and reading aloud together ( this one will also benefit their reading enjoyment). If you are going to play with your child, then set up quick and easy games so that they don’t lose their concentration whilst this is happening. Through playing games with your child you are teaching them to:
-improve social skills.
You can also improve memory skills through games.
I have added an appendix to this article with game suggestions that you might like to try out, divided into primary school / secondary school age children.
To conclude, concentration is a skill you can teach to children who find this difficult. It will take time and patience but follow the above steps and your child will improve their attention span.
PS: Do you want more support and guidance for your dyslexic child? I help parents make learning less frustrating and more successful by giving you practical help that I know works through teaching dyslexic children for over 12 years. Click here to join my free Facebook group ‘Dyslexia Deb’.
If you would like to know more about dyslexia and how it affects your child, click here to enroll in my online courses.
Would you benefit from discussing your concerns about your child's progress with a Specialist Dyslexia Tutor? Contact me to arrange a consultancy meeting ( these can take place online).
Game Ideas for Primary School Children:
Playing in sand pit
Pretend play / puppets
Lego / building blocks
Drawing / painting / cutting out shapes
Easy board games
Card games such as snap and pairs ( where cards are face down, turn over 2 at a time to see if they are a matching pair. You don’t have to use a whole pack of cards – perhaps just have 5 pairs out at first)
Kim’s game ( put some items on a tray, cover them up and ask your child to remember what was there. Start with a couple of items first)
I went to the shops and bought….. ( each player adds an item that was bought , next player has to remember that one and add in a new item and so on)
Game Ideas for Secondary School Children:
Card games ( older children still love snap!)
Advanced Lego / Meccano/ models