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How to deal with kids with shorter attention span? Sometimes, it can be hard for most of us to focus on certain tasks. It’s actually a normal thing to find your mind wandering when you should be focused on a specific thing. According to a 2010 study 1 by Harvard psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert, we spend nearly 47 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we are doing. It's even harder for kids to stay focused on one task even if they are interested in it, especially nowadays with all the stimulation available around us. It can be nearly impossible to keep a child's attention when they're completely uninterested in what you want them to focus on, or when they find the task too challenging. Young students will fidget, play with their pencils and look at everything except the task at hand. So, what’s attention span? The Cambridge dictionary defines attention span as the length of time that someone can keep their thoughts and interest fixed on something For children it’s so much shorter , some child development experts suggest that the average child should be able to concentrate on one task for 2-5 minutes multiplied by their age. So, an average 6-year old should be able to focus on a given task for up to 30 minutes 2. Of course, this will vary by child – and of course by task. Attention span is also elastic and will tend to wane as the school day progresses. It’s not always cause for concern, but a short attention span may sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). WHAT IS ADHD? ADHD is a disorder that affects 5% to 7% of children.3 Children with ADHD have problems with attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. ADHD is the term now used for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). ADHD is more common in boys than in girls. • A child with ADHD has trouble listening when someone talks, waiting his turn, completing a task, or returning to a task if interrupted. (These can be normal characteristics of children less than 3 or 4 years old.) • 80% of boys and 50% of girls with attention problems are also hyperactive. A child who has symptoms of hyperactivity is restless, impulsive, and in a hurry. • 50% of children also have a learning disability. The most common learning disability is an auditory processing deficit. This means they have difficulty remembering verbal directions. However, the intelligence of most children with ADHD is usually normal. It seems like kids today are not as good at concentration as we might remember being at their age. In the current age of fast-paced modern technology and social media, it’s no wonder that adults—let alone children—are unable to focus their attention easily. Think about how much stimulation we’re exposed to daily, and how much it impacts your world. Between smartphones, iPods, email, TV, DVRs, the internet, social media and more, our brain’s neurons are firing on all cylinders all day long. The brain is trained at a young age to multitask to such a high degree that it is often incapable of focusing on one task or thought at a time. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that of students ages 8 to 18, half of them watch TV, surf the internet or use some other form of media while doing their homework. Dr. Richard Restak’s book The New Brain: How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind covers this topic in depth. He discusses how we are all capable of reaching a breaking point where we lose our ability to focus due to overstimulation. This is what could be happening with many of our children. A child who is seen as “having difficulty focusing” or “bright, but not working to his full potential” may be unable to keep up with the demands of a stimulus-filled environment. Children living with ADHD need mental stimulation and arousal, which is why they are given stimulants to help them focus in the classroom. They can focus easily on certain things such as video games and television because these things provide them with instant gratification, are thrilling and dynamic, and give them a “hit” of dopamine that keeps them enthralled. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder for kids in the U.S., with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under age 18. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the prevalence of ADHD in children ages 4 to 17 years was 11%. These findings represent a dramatic increase from more than 30 years ago, when the rate of ADHD was estimated at between 3% and 5%. What is more concerning is that the prevalence of ADHD increased by about 35% from 2003 to 2011 alone. So the chances to encountering an ADHD students in your classroom are very high. A teacher should be able to manage this type of students. 1- Maintain firm discipline. These children are usually difficult to manage. They need more carefully planned discipline than the average child. Rules should be made mainly to prevent harm to him and to others. Hyperactive children tolerate fewer rules than the normal child. Enforce a few clear, consistent, important rules and add other rules at their own pace. Avoid constant negative comments like "Don't do this," and "Stop that." Develop a set of hand signals and use them rather than telling your child to calm down or slow down. 2- Enforce rules . Try to use a friendly, matter-of-fact tone of voice when you discipline your students. If you yell, your students will be quick to imitate you. 3- Breaking tasks into smaller segments Children who have ADHD often jump from task to task without finishing any of them. They feel trapped by any task that takes longer than the time they’re able to maintain focus. Improving this skill usually requires breaking tasks into smaller segments while working to increase the child’s low attention span. 4- Take 10 minutes every day to practice paying attention. Set a kitchen timer for random intervals (one to three minutes), and ask students to place a check mark on their paper if they were paying attention when the alarm went off. This will help students become aware of how long it takes before they drift off. 5- Provide preferential seating — in front of the classroom, within cueing distance of you, and away from as many environmental distractions as possible, including doors, windows, and visual displays. If possible, make sure the child is seated among attentive, well-focused students. 6- Have a student clear his desk of distractions. He should have only the essential items needed to do the task at hand. 7- Create opportunities for children to respond to the material as it is being presented. Lecture for no more than 10 minutes, then ask kids to comment on the material. 8- Cover or remove visual distractions. Erase unnecessary information from the board and remove visual clutter. 9- Reward your student when he finishes a task. Giving your kids something to look forward to will energize them. The reward can be a sticker , a game to play or a candy…etc 10- Expand on your student’s partial answers by saying, “Tell me more. I would like to know how you arrived at that answer? It is interesting.” This will keep his attention on the task at hand. 11- Give kids a reason to pay attention – be creative. Try to create something or to come up with new game, technique , warm up every once and a while . 12- Make it physical. Kids love moving around, jumping, running … so creating more opportunities for them to move around will help them stay focused for longer. 13- Turn it into a game. The internet is full of interesting and fun games you can try in the classroom. Make your class enjoyable and kids will appreciate you and you will definitely feel rewarded. Children especially those with shorter attention span, are very adept at finding enjoyment and entertainment with the littlest, most unassuming, objects. A paperclip can quickly be turned into a bouncy toy. A piece of paper can be rolled into a spying glass. So, it’s the role of the teacher as well as the parent to create the right environment for kids to stay focused and motivated. It’s definitely a difficult task but with References: 1 Steve Bradt Harvard Staff Writer, November 11, 2010 2 https://www.educationcorner.com/tips-for-increasing-attention-span.html 3 https://www.summitmedicalgroup.com/library/pediatric_health/pa-hhgbeh_attention/