How often do you say to your child, “Pay attention?” Or, how often does a teacher reprimand a student for “not paying attention?” We tend to think that attention is something simple, either you are paying attention or you are not. But, it is actually much more complex than most people realise. For example, do you ever find yourself distracted enough when walking into a room to get something that you forget what you came into the room for? Or, have you ever been listening to an audio book only to realise that you stopped paying attention several pages back?
In fact, trying to figure out exactly what attention is, and why some children have more trouble attending than others, especially in school, has been the focus of psychologists for years. As adults, we realise that the ability to attend carefully to a task, ignore distractions and stick with it, is something that takes time for children to develop. But, what exactly is attention? Why is some information easier to attend to than other kinds? What is an attentional disorder? And, perhaps most important, are there ways to improve our attentional skills?
Luckily, neuroscience-based interventions are now available to help students build their attentional skills. This can make a big difference to their school performance and also help them feel better about themselves.