1. Take the Mystery Away
The first and perhaps most important management strategy is to insure that all students understand how attention works and identify their particular profiles of attention strengths and weaknesses. Then, students should be taught attention management strategies.
2. Understand Consistent Inconsistency
Teachers and parents should understand that the inconsistency of children with attention problems is not evidence of a poor attitude or lack of motivation. It is a part of their biologically based attention dysfunction, and is beyond their easy control.
3. Explore the Option of Medication
For many children and adolescents, medication can be helpful in dealing with attentional difficulties. Medication can improve mental alertness and the intensity and duration of concentration. In addition, it may diminish impulsivity and hyperactivity. The student and his parents may wish to explore this option with his physician.
4. Allow for Movement and Breaks
It is helpful for students who have problems with inconsistent alertness and mental effort to be provided with opportunities to move around. For example, at school, teachers could ask the student to erase the board, collect papers or take a message to the office. At home, parents and/or the student could schedule regular breaks and change work sites. That is, the student could work several minutes at the kitchen table and several minutes on the living room floor. Each time the location is changed, the student may experience a burst of mental energy. Additionally, students may need to be doing something with their hands while seated. They may doodle, roll a piece of clay or perform some other manual tasks that enhance their alertness and arousal.
5. Vary Instructional Strategies
Teachers should use a variety of instructional strategies and these should be changed approximately every 15 to 20 minutes. For example, they could deliver information for 15 minutes via lecture. This strategy could be followed by small group work or cooperative learning for 20 minutes. Next, students could engage in individual seatwork or watch a video.
6. Use Signals
The teacher and parents should have a private way of signaling students when they are tuned out. For example, a gentle tap on the shoulder may be effective. Also, the student’s teachers and parents may need to signal him when something important is about to be stated. Looking right at him, his teacher or parent could say, “Now listen very carefully. I am about to give you important instructions about tomorrow’s test.
7. Leverage Interests
Attention is enhanced when interest is heightened. Thus, students should be encouraged to read, write and talk about subjects in which they are interested. Additionally, students’ attention is enhanced when information is personally relevant to them. For example, if students need to learn a chronological timetable, the teacher could begin with having the students develop a chronological timetable of the important events in their own lives.