Concentration may be impaired due to a number of reasons including:
- an inability to screen out unnecessary sound and visual stimuli.
- a problem maintaining position due to discomfort, poor core stability, increased or decreased tactile sensation.
- difficulty knowing what they need to do due to lack of understanding or retention of instructions.
- poor self- esteem – thinking that they will not be able to complete the task / worrying about how others might perceive them.
- pain affecting concentration and performance. A pupil experiencing pain, muscle spasms, or general aches due to weak muscles will struggle to concentrate.
- fatigue due to the effort required to perform a simple task being many times greater than for their able bodied peers.
- broken night’s sleep due to pain, discomfort, using night splints etc. can be debilitating and lead to tiredness and lack of concentration.
Activities to improve concentration
- Short sessions of concentrated effort are preferable to prolonged tasks.
- Make sure the pupil knows there is an end to the task and use a timer if needed.
- Build in extra time for the pupil to complete the task without them feeling they are always last.
- Ensuring that the pupil is calm and ready for work will help eliminate reasons to be distracted.
- Reduce the amount of work given required and verbal instruction given.
- Make the last verbal instruction a key action instruction.
- Provide personal targets for everyone to reduce competition with peers.
- Break long tasks into stages, with other activities of a more practical nature in between.
- Set targets that are achievable over short periods of time e.g. 1 week.
- Encourage the pupil to sit close to the teacher and maintain frequent eye contact
- The teacher or child should not sit near the door or passageway through the class
- Hearing difficulties may give rise to poor attention, and it is worth investigating this if a pupil experiences regular loss of concentration.
- Involve pupil in increasing concentration by giving definite goals. Place a dot on a page and say you will return when he/she has reached the dot or ask the pupil to complete a given number of sums. Ensure the goals set are manageable and short and rewarded if achieved.
- Gradually increase the amount of work to be done.
- Use 5 minute egg timer / agree a time on the clock and challenge the pupil to complete task.
- Reward charts which indicate progress in staying on task can prove useful.
- For some children it may be that they actually need a rest or even to sleep during the school day. If they can remove themselves from stimulation for a short while, it might be enough to re-charge their batteries and continue at school rather than letting the tiredness build up and having to take a day off to rest.
- Conserving energy can be a way of dealing with the fatigue. E.g. if a child has PE after break one day, it might be better for break time to be spent quietly and with little activity so that they are not exhausted for the rest of the day.
Pupils with physical difficulties may have problems with their organisational skills for a number of reasons including having issues with:
- Memory, not remembering where classroom equipment is kept.
- Planning, sequencing and time management so:
- Not having the right equipment.
- Not knowing what lessons they have next / during that day so not bringing the right equipment into school
- Not being able to predict what equipment to use when given a task.
- Not knowing how to complete a task.
- Getting lost on the way to the next lesson.
- Being late for lessons, so compounding the issue by missing instructions.
- Transporting equipment around the school that they might need.
- Dependence on an adult to do the planning and arranging for them.
Activities to improve organisation
- Check with the pupil they have understood the instructions that have been given.
- Break the task into smaller chunks.
- Voice to text dictation using a phone or other device can be useful in some circumstances as the student can read it and extract information at a later date.
- Getting in the habit of taking notes can be very helpful.
- Use pictorial cue cards e.g. things to have on the table at the start of the lesson.
- Give older pupils a basic hand-out to support verbal information.
- Provide a pictorial timetable to encourage understanding of the school day.
- Encourage use of a journal / planner / device to record activities, homework etc.
- Work with home to encourage the pupil to pack their bags the night before and remember everything they need to bring to school each day.
- Encourage pupil to think for themselves. Even if they are not physically capable of fetching equipment, they should be aware of what is required to complete a task.
- Maximise table top space, should be tidy with necessary equipment accessible.
- Raise awareness of time so that the pupil can act accordingly e.g. there is 10 minutes until the end of the lesson, or half an hour until lunchtime.
- Devise reminders to check the time at regular intervals to make sure they can get everything done in e.g. exams / practical lessons or for homework.
- Develop system to identify what is needed for a particular day or lesson and dissuade the pupil from carrying everything in their bags all of the time as this only adds to fatigue and discomfort.
- Consider allocating a locker so that the pupil can choose to leave some of their possessions rather than carry them round all of the time. Colour coding a timetable will help to decide what they will need for that morning / afternoon.
- Establish a ‘buddy system’ to help with moving around the school and timetable.
- Appoint someone to oversee the pupil’s arrival at school making sure they get to tutorial / first lesson safely, calmly and on time.
- Make sure they are aware of any changes in routine – e.g. moving classrooms due to exams.