Most children and adults find that paying attention can be hard work at times. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can be a big challenge. Paying attention uses particular networks in the brain and it is a skill that can be improved and developed over time. To pay attention effectively, we need to be alert, so that we can filter distractions from important information within our surroundings.
Children with autism quite often also have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which further compounds the difficulty of keeping on task.
Keeping focus and attention is critical for school age children as it is expected that they sit for extended periods of time and listen to the teacher. With preparation your child can make the most of their classroom time.
So what can you do to best prepare your child for success in the classroom?
1) Get out excess energy
A child will have difficulty sustaining attention on a task if they are too over stimulated. Allowing additional time prior to school for your child to engage in physical activities that they enjoy such as riding their bike or jumping on a trampoline will help them to respond appropriately to a more sedentary task. Discreet finger and foot fidget tools are also helpful.
2) Consider an appropriate environment
A noisy, over-stimulating place will simply add to the distractions. Find a quiet place for homework and study and build in “break” time dependent upon your child’s attention span and age. Try and set a goal for longer “focus” times.
3) Adequate sleep
If your body needs sleep you will not be able to focus and learn. Sleep quality has a profound impact on learning and memory. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. A sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Additionally, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.
4) Proper Diet
Several studies show that nutritional status can directly affect mental capacity among school-aged children. For example, deficiencies in iron, thiamine, vitamin E, vitamin B, iodine, and zinc, are shown to inhibit cognitive abilities and mental concentration. Additionally, amino acid supplementation can improve perception, intuition, and reasoning. Several studies also demonstrate that improvements in nutrient intake can influence the cognitive ability and intelligence levels of school-aged children. As many children with autism have limited diets, dietary deficiencies are not uncommon.
Cognition Focus and Calm Focus support healthy sleep and concentration, both of which are needed for success in the classroom. Cognition Focus stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which is involved in learning and memory. Calm Focus stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which initiates sleep. Cognition Focus and Calm Focus also provide the nutrients that are often found to be deficient in autistic children, and are needed for your child to reach their maximum potential.