Many learners with dyslexia have a short concentration span – as I’m sure many parents are aware!
I often chat with teachers or Learning Support Assistants about a particular child and they grumble about their poor attention in class. They always remark that I have it easy as the child often focuses better when working with me in a one-to-one situation!
Of course, this may be for a variety of reasons – it could be down to ADHD difficulties, which can co-exist with dyslexia. But the fact is, dyslexic children find learning such a challenge, it is often difficult for them to maintain concentration and motivation.
Whatever the reason, short attention span can hamper learning – and sometimes degenerate into poor behaviour in class. So this can make a dyslexic child’s situation seem particularly hard; they not only have to deal with the challenges of dyslexia, but also of poor concentration and focus issues. For a parent, this can present real difficulties at home when trying to get your child to do homework.
How long can you expect your dyslexic child to concentrate for?
I recently came across a great formula to use when trying to decide how long you can realistically expect your child to concentrate on a task:
Attention span for learning = chronological age + 1
For example, an eight-year-old child (8+1=9) would have a nine-minute attention span for a learning activity. Parents may find this quite useful when dealing with homework issues and limiting inappropriate behaviour. Maybe you are over-estimating how long your child can be expected to maintain concentration?
Of course, this is just a guide. It could well be that your eight-year old finds it impossible to concentrate for nine minutes!
Here are a couple of tips to help build attention span:
Gradually build up your child’s concentration span. Use a timer – a kitchen timer or the timer on your phone will do – to gradually build up concentration. Start at five minutes, then build up to six minutes etc. Make sure your child understands the task in hand and has all the resources he needs to complete the task before you start the timer. Before you know it, your child will be concentrating for ten minutes straight!
Reward concentration. If your dyslexic child can work solidly, without interruption, for the allocated time, give a reward. This may just be praise (we should be doing this anyway!) or stickers for a younger child. Older kids will respond to something more substantial – they could earn points which go towards pocket money or a trip to McDonalds.