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Mainer

Maintaining focus

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Does anyone have any tricks for helping a kid learn to maintain focus? What do you do when they focus while you're talking to them (1 minute) and then instantly zone out (waaaaay out) the second you turn your back? It's making learning impossible, and this is a very smart kid. Very frustrating for everyone.

 

I'm not sure if this is an autism thing, an adhd thing, or what. Asking questions as often as possible helps, but I can't always be doing that.

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Does the person have an ASD diagnosis?  Because, honestly, once you add ASD in with the ADHD, focus is a lot more involved question.  You've got everything you would do for ADHD that you can put on the table as tools, but you also have to bring in all the ASD tools.  So with ASD, at least in our house, you're looking at social thinking, is he on board with the group plan, is he self-regulating, is he motivated.  We use our ABA to work on my ds' ability to sit/be with someone and work.  We're able to actually *quantify* for sessions how frequently he needs breaks to stay regulated, etc.  He's had regression because of the funeral and things that happened recently.  It's not like it's just one stable thing.  

 

And how old is the dc?  Are they getting interventions?  You're tutoring, yes?  Does he have a behavior plan for his regular classroom?

 

In general, I would find what motivates him, increase engagement and interaction (drop demands, increase interaction), slowly raise demands, use motivators, and do more frequent breaks.  All as age-appropriate.  So if he's a new client, work on just getting him interacting with you (pairing), THEN start making demands.  

 

With my ds, kinesthetic breaks are very motivating, so they'll maybe work 5, do a kinesthetic break, work another 5, etc.  He's actually incredibly focused, and I've gotten 3 different answers from 3 different psychs on the ADHD question, lol.  Find out whether the plan is to work on his reading or his behavior.  It's really hard to work on both.  For you to tutor, his behavior already needs to be in place.  So if he has a behavior plan or motivators or other things in his other classes, then they need to let you know those tools so you can carry them over.

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I wouldn't assume he's not listening just because he's zoned out.  But I would try to find ways to engage him, with conversation, trying different modalities, etc.  If he has an area of special interest, you can bridge with that.  Most people that work with my ds start with something HE wants to do before they EVER try getting him to do their thing.

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Yes, there is an ASD diagnosis. I know he's unfocused because I can hear him running TV scripts under his breath, laughing (quietly) at jokes, etc. He's very willing to do his work, and he's a kind, gentle kid BUT he's focused when we're talking to him in class and then as soon as we stop talking to him he's back to watching TV in his mind.

 

Thanks for the advice about what worked for you. I'll have to think about what motivators would work for him -  because it's not like he's a behavior problem or anything, or resistant to work - it's like you said above, self-regulation is not there. I wonder how to work on self-regulation...

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You may need to step up the pace.  You mentioned turning your back.  It sounds like he's scripting, which is considered a form of stimming.  So then you want to know why he's stimming (he's stressed? he's...) and what you can replace it with.  And while there are books on it (Stop that Seemingly Senseless Behavior), the school ought to have an ABA person you can talk with to find out how to handle it. 

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Stepping up the pace is the way to go, I think you're completely right. I'll get my hands on that book! Thanks!

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