Did you know that attention is really about noticing less? That is not the way most people think about it. However, in a scientific review paper “Visual attention: The past 25 years” I read recently, Dr. Carrasco makes that case and it is clear once she explains it.
Each time we open our eyes, we are confronted with an overwhelming amount of information. It is visual attention that allows us to separate what is important from what is not important at that moment. We need to ignore many, many things to make sense of the scene. It is attention that helps us notice less and focus on what matters.
For children with attention challenges, it is often the overwhelming amount of information they are taking in (and finding hard to ignore) that leads to their challenges. I heard one young woman describe it as sitting in a room with 100 TVs on.
So in some ways, it is not their inability to focus on one thing that is the challenge, it is their inability to not focus on lots of things. — Sorry about the double negative, but I think it makes an important point. — Of course, when working on a preferred task (e.g. playing video games), they are able to focus. It is the non-preferred tasks (did someone say school work?) that are problematic.
What can you do to help? Removing distractions, as much as possible, and improving mindfulness (e.g. yoga, meditation) are good starting points. However, the Attention Arcade is one of the few ways to train attention skills in a way that children find fun, which is important when it needs to be done consistently over time to develop the skills they need.
If you have any questions about visual attention, please contact us. I would appreciate hearing what questions parents and educators have.