“My son is ADHD” said a mother of an eight-year old cute boy.
“Oh that’s a new name, ADHD….interesting” I replied.
“No…That’s not his name….I mean he has attention issues.” she clarified.
“Ok, what makes you say that?? Is there any particular way he behaves that makes you derive that conclusion?” I asked
“Yes…he doesn’t sit in one place….keeps moving around while studying and he can’t pay attention to anything he does.” she said.
Next I spoke to the boy.
“Do you like watching movies?”
“Yes!!! I LOVEEEE movies. I saw Jungle Book and KungFu Panda recently” he jumped out in joy. And for the next 20 minutes he kept narrating the story of the both the movies with lots of excitement.
He pounced like Sherkhan and kicked like Poo, the Panda.
His mother was amazed by the way her son spoke to me for nearly 45 minutes without any break and if given more time I was sure he would continue talking.
“How did you do that? He never speaks to anyone for more than 5 mins” she asked. I could sense amusement in her voice.
Here’s my answer to all parents who label their child as, ‘Hyperactive, Shy, ADHD, ADD’ because some doctor did some tests and said so.
Maybe that’s true, I don’t wish to challenge medical doctors, but I wish to propose a new perspective.
In the last 3 years of working with children and as a mom, I’ve observed that children are curious to explore their surroundings. They want to experiment things on their own and are interested in discovering and learning new things. What happens as a result of this curiosity is that, some children find it a little challenging to focus on one task at a time. For example they may want to colour a picture….but midway they might get up to play cricket. Then while playing cricket they may stop and start watching TV. They get this sudden urge to switch tasks as they feel the other task is more interesting or engaging.
However there’s one interesting twist to this. I’ve also observed, these curious kids glued to computer, TV, PlayStation or mobile phones. They can play for hours on iPad and watch movies on TV for hours…without any boredom or switch.
That’s when I questioned myself, ‘How do they learn to be focused while playing games on the computer?’ ‘What makes them concentrate on TV for hours?’
When asked, few of my young clients immediately replied,
“Aunty Cartoons and games are interesting.”
“Subway surfer is so engaging and challenging. If I lose my focus, I will die and can’t earn gold coins.”
“I have to focus while playing Candy Crush aunty or else I will be left and my friends will win.”
Wow, some amazing answers, isn’t it?
So what is it that children want..?
They want something that’s interesting, engaging and challenging….something which gives them an adrenaline rush. However our educational system fails to make studies interesting and engaging. The overworked teachers with a class of 40 to 50…how can they even try to make studies interesting? She is too busy in completing the syllabus and seldom has time to try new and creative techniques to teach. And if in that class of 40, 5 children pay less attention or are unable to pick up the pace of teaching, they’re labelled as, ‘Slow learner, ADD, ADHD’ etc….
Here are few ways in which I work with children who have challenges in focusing and paying attention
‘Once upon a time…’ just try leaving this statement unfinished and see how children become restless. They will immediately ask you, ‘What happened next? What was there once upon a time?’ Storytelling is a wonderful way to connect and engage children in any age group. Usually when we think of storytelling for children, we imagine puppets, props and an ideal setting. However a story can be narrated without these as well.
All you need is a good story with powerful characters, some voice modulation, and a deep interest to narrate a story. When you put your soul into narrating a story…the characters come alive and the child enjoys. You can also ask some questions while narrating the story to keep your child engaged.
Children love to explore the colourful world, however instead of going the traditional way of colouring, I add a twist. I narrate a story and then ask the children to create their version of the story or the characters. In doing so the child gets the freedom to tap his or her creative potential and the result is a masterpiece.
- Movement based activities –
Dance is a fantastic way to allow children to redirect their energy. When then allow themselves to go with the flow of music, they learn how to balance and gradually they enjoy expressing themselves through dance. I also play simple games like statue-statue with them which is fun and energizing.
A simple mindfulness game that I play with children beaming with energy is as follows:
Step 1: Ask the children to jump, skip, run or dance or any other form of physical movement for at least 10 minutes
Step 2: Then allow them to sit and ask, “Are you breathing right now?” “Yes” will be the prompt reply.
Step 3: Ask them to place their index finger just below their nostril, above their lips and ask them to breathe normally. Let them feel the air that they exhale from the nostrils on their index finger.
Step 4: Do this initially at a count of 5 and then you’ll notice children calm down gradually. You can increase the counts to 10 gradually.
This simple exercise helps them to calm down and they can focus much effectively on any activity that follows. You can do this before they sit to study and see how easily they finish their studies with greater concentration levels.
It is easier to complain that attention spans are reducing, however it takes an effort to create activities that keep children engaged and interested.
Are we ready to do that?
Are we ready to use our creative energies to find a way to hook children in stories and art, when there are play stations and computers howling for attention?
If as a parent or teacher you face difficulties in engaging your children or students, you can try these techniques and write your feedback in the comments section or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have some tips on handling attention issues then do drop me a message. I would love to try them out.
Love and gratitude,