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Signs your child may have

challenges with Attention

(including, but not limited to):

  • Lacks Focus/ distractible

  • Cannot recall information

  • Difficulty completing tasks

  • Interrupts others


What is it?

Attention is our ability to focus on important aspects of the environment while filtering out extra information. It allows us to have a conversation while in a noisy environment, process information presented by a teacher so that we can recall it later, or sustain play with a group of peers on the playground.


Attention difficulties occur for a variety of reasons and are not always linked with an attention deficit diagnosis. Since every child processes information differently, each child can have a different response to the same situation.


If the child does not efficiently and accurately process sensory information in the environment, then he or she will struggle to pay attention.


At Leaps and Bounds, occupational therapists assess each child to determine if inefficient sensory processing is contributing to attention problems. The following sensory systems will be addressed, as appropriate for your child:


  • Auditory system: Without the ability to filter out extra sounds in the environment, a child will not be able to ignore the sounds of peers tapping pencils, whispering, or turning pages. If a child’s auditory system has difficulty “tuning out” these sounds, then he or she will be distracted and unable to attend to classroom work.

  • Visual system: The visual system must filter out unimportant visual information in order to pay attention. This becomes challenging for a child when there is a lot to look at in his environment. For example, classroom walls are covered with decorations and classwork, peers are constantly moving around the room, and worksheets are loaded with words. If a child’s visual system cannot process this visual information, then the child will become distracted by these things and demonstrate poor attention.

  • Tactile system: A child who is a touch “seeker” or touch “avoider” may also present with poor attention. If he becomes irritated by touch input (e.g. seams in clothing, the feel of paper on his hand) or seeks touch (e.g. constantly touching items on his desk), then it will be challenging to pay attention in the classroom.

  • Vestibular/Proprioceptive Systems: If a child seeks vestibular input (e.g. wiggling when seated) or has poor proprioceptive perception (e.g. lacks body awareness) then he will have difficulty sitting upright and still on the floor or in a chair, which will impact attention.

  • Olfactory System: For a child who is sensitive to the odors of cleaners, foods, candles, or perfumes, these smells can be significantly distracting and make the child appear lethargic or withdrawn, and therefore distracted.

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