Attention skills and sitting skills are the pre-requisite skills that our children need to learn before they go to school. Given that our children have different developmental pacing, these skills may be challenging for some children especially for those with developmental delays.
Attending is a learned behavior and often, parents teach it. They teach it during everyday activities and daily routine that they do at home. From sitting at the table during dinner to changing clothes and listening to bedtime stories. All of these activities have a significant help in building a good foundation for the said skills.
Children with disabilities or special needs often have difficulty attending. These children tend to be easily distracted or for kids with autism, they are having trouble on which they should attend to. This is why before we can really expect our children to sit and attend to and activity, we have to start with the basic skills.
Sitting in one Place
To teach small children to learn to sit, use individual instructional time to sit with a child. Usually one to one activity is very effective along with an activity on interest and preferred reinforcer. It may be as simple as sitting with a child and let him imitate what you do: “Touch your head!”, “point your nose.” Always follow up with verbal praises like, “Good job!”, “Well done.” Children love it when you give credit for what they have done. Tangible rewards like a cookie or a piece of fruit can also be used.
Sitting in Group
Some children may sit during individual session, but might may roam around during group setting. For this, visual cues can be of great help. Show them a picture of a kids sitting down and explain that they have to sit down. Give reinforcers once they sat down and praise other children who are sitting down, and they would have the tendency to copy their peers.
Teaching Groups to Attend
There are several key ways to build whole group attention by the way in which group activities are conducted:
- Keep circle time short to start. Have a song before each start of an activity to that the children can start or transit easier. Circle time should not be any longer than 15 minutes when you start but should grow to 30 the children have settled in to the routine.
- Maximize participation: Each child should not feel left out. Everyone should have an equal opportunity for participation. For children who needs more help, give assistance and make them do what others are doing. Find each child’s strength so you would know what they can contribute during circle time.
- Mix it up. Circle time should not just be quiet activities such as story-telling or lesson, but should include motion songs, dancing and motion games, and give different children opportunities to lead the group.
- Praise, praise, praise: Praising a child is not only to reward good behaviour but also to teach it. “I like how Justin is sitting!” “I like that Benny is crossing her legs while sitting.” Naming the behaviour is powerful: it shows everyone what the behaviour looks like, at the same time.
- Be consistent: Let’s be realistic. It is really impossible to call on all children equally but always give opportunity to all on each day. Children are very sensitive and they would feel if they aren’t given attention. Besides that, activities should interactive. It should always be interactive but it is also good to let them experience new things every now and then.