Attention & Listening: The Foundation
Attention & listening skills are fundamental for communication development. The factors that influence developing attention and listening skills for communication include, sensory awareness, joint attention, and interaction. Poor attention will have an impact on listening, remembering, and following verbal instructions. Our brains help us attend to tasks and select what is important. Every day we use different types of attention skills. Attention helps us select the important stimuli and listening helps us to focus on what we have selected allowing us to process it better.
Types of Attention: Selective attention involves being able to select and focus on what is important and block out background noise or other stimuli. Sometimes children have difficulty blocking out background noise or visual stimuli in order to focus on a task. This is particularly the case for children with sensory and auditory processing difficulties such as those with ADHD or ASD. Alternating attention involves being able to switch between activities and have the ability to pick up where we left off with each activity. Divided attention refers to how we can do two things at once. Children with difficulties alternating attention might not be able to move back and forth between attending to a verbal conversation while doing a manual task such as building.
Support your child’s listening by helping them develop through simple stages of focusing on something with you i.e. jointly watching leaves blowing in the wind, sustaining attention to watch an entire sequence or showing them a process such watering plants and allowing them to take turns with you in a joint activity i.e. saying ready, steady, go to take turn throwing and catching a ball.