What is it? The ability to block out irrelevant stimuli in the environment in order to focus on an activity without looking away from the task and becoming interrupted (AOTA, 2014, p. S25).
Why is it important? The ability to attend allows the child to engage in tasks long enough to develop skills necessary for functional participation in daily activities. Attention is a skill necessary for occupations across the lifetime such as:
- Activities of daily living (feeding, bathing, dressing, functional mobility, grooming)
- Academic participation (attention in class, attending to tasks such as reading, writing, etc.)
- Job performance
- Safety/emergency maintenance (attending to the environment to be aware of safety hazards)
- Meal preparation
- Play and leisure activities
5 activities to improve attention:
1. Movement prior to activities that require attention.
Tip: Get that body moving! Try moving like different animals (bear walk, frog hop, etc.)
2. Heavy work prior to activities that require attention.
Tip: A good way to release extra energy! Try pushing a stack of heavy books, pushing a piece of furniture, pulling a wagon, etc.)
3. Proprioceptive input (deep pressure to body’s joints) prior to activities that require attention.
Tip: Play on the floor! Try rolling, joint compressions, crawling, pillow squishes, etc.
4. Sitting down and participating in interesting/engaging activities for 5 minutes a day.
Tip: Try activities your child enjoys (cutting, etc.) for 5 minutes a day. Set a timer. As your child’s attention span improves, increase the time spent doing seated activities.
5. Modifying the environment prior to activities that require attention.
Tip: Limit distractions (turn off TV/Screens, limit visual stimuli, sit away from windows, face table and chair towards a wall, etc.).
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1-S48.