By Glenda Thorne and Alice Thomas
“You need to pay attention to me when I’m talking to you.”
“Your grades would be better if you would put out more effort; you’re just not motivated!”
“See what happens when you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing?”
“I have the hardest time paying attention to something I’m not interested in.”
For countless school-aged children, these statements sound all too familiar. Since paying attention is the first step to learning, it is very important for students, teachers and parents to understand attention, how it works and what it looks like when it doesn’t work. Let’s take a closer look at Andrew, a student with attention problems.
Andrew is a puzzle to everyone, including himself. He has a good mind and some very creative ideas. He’s a good athlete, excelling in soccer, basketball, and swimming. Most of the time, Andrew can be lots of fun to be around, and, for the most part, he is well-liked by his peers.
Andrew has some days when everything seems to go right for him, and other days when nothing seems to go right for him, and he doesn’t know why. It’s a mystery to Andrew, his parents and his teachers why he’s “on” some days and “off” on others. Andrew wishes he could just be “on” all the time.
Andrew has a hard time completing his homework on a regular basis, and he often forgets to bring his books or other materials to class. In class, he finds it hard to pay attention to what is going on for more than a few minutes unless it is extremely interesting. He feels restless when he has to sit still for too long, and he often taps his pen on the desk or shakes his leg.
Andrew complains of feeling bored and/or tired in school, except when there are lab activities and projects in science class. He comes alive then. He loves science, especially the experiments. But when the teacher lectures, Andrew finds himself staring out the window or into space, daydreaming about neat but “off the subject” topics. During class discussions, his mind often flips into more imaginative thoughts, and before long he’s in another world. Andrew’s teachers observe that he often does his class work too quickly without checking over it. His parents notice the same thing about his homework speed. Andrew knows it’s good to check over his work, but he hates to – it’s so boring and tedious – he just doesn’t have the patience. He also has a hard time completing his homework on a regular basis, and he often forgets to bring his books or other materials to class.
Sometimes Andrew says or does things without really thinking, which irritates the other students and the teacher. He doesn’t mean to do this, and gets mad at himself when it happens. Andrew says that it feels like his mind is flying out of control, and he can’t seem to catch it. Andrew’s teachers and parents tell him that he could do much better in school if he would just try harder. He gets mad when they say this, because he is trying. He doesn’t want to do poorly. Andrew really doesn’t like having people angry with him and his being angry with them, but he doesn’t know how to fix the situation. He’s starting to think that he will never be able to succeed in school.
Can Andrew be helped? Absolutely! Read the articles titled, “What Is Attention?”, “What Are Some Problems With Attention?”, and “What Can A Student Do To Increase His Attention?” and then see if you can answer the following questions.
Figuring Out Andrew
Respond to the following questions about Andrew who is described on page one of this newsletter.
- What are Andrew’s strengths?
- What are his problem areas?
- Name at least four (4) attention vocabulary terms that can be used to describe Andrew’s problems.
- Why do you think Andrew likes science labs and activities?
- Why do you think Andrew gets mad when teachers and parents tell him that he is not trying and to work harder?
- What could Andrew do to keep himself from blurting out things he wishes he had never said?