Attention and listening skills are the foundation/pre requisite for learning language. Adequate attention is required in order for language development to occur.

The developmental stages of attention established by Cooper, Moodley and Reynell (1978) are progressive and consider the situation and the nature of the task. Children progress through stages of:

  1. Fleeting attention to a dominant stimulus where the child is highly distracted by other sounds and movements
  2. Inflexible and rigid attention when focusing on an activity of their choice
  3. Single channelled attention that is becoming more flexible as the child’s attention can be transferred from the task when directed by an adult
  4. Single channelled attention where the focus can be directed from the task to the adult under the child’s own control
  5. Two channelled attention between auditory and visual stimuli for short periods of time
  6. Sustained attention under the control of the child

How to improve attention and listening skills

Strategies can be used to help your child attend to an activity for longer such as:

  • Gentle physical prompts and verbal prompts – This will help your child wait while you take your turn in a game.
  • ‘One more turn’ –  Use the phrase ‘one more turn’ but stick to it. Once your child has completed one more turn give lots of praise and let them go  off to play.
  • Sit at a table when playing some games
  • Rewards – Use a star chart with a treat, such as a favourite toy, when three stars have been earned.
  • Play for a short while at first – Gradually increase the amount of time, spending one minute on a game is enough to start with.

Here are a few activities that can help, remember to always gain eye contact with your child during these activities:

  • Ready, steady, go games with bubbles or cars
    Help your child to wait for the cue of ‘go’ by holding their hands.  Begin by saying ‘ready, steady, go’ quite quickly.  Emphasise the ‘go’.  As your child learns to wait for the ‘go’ cue, draw out/lengthen the ‘ready, steady’.
  • Build towers – Take turns to build a tower, increasing the height of the tower as your child’s attention improves. Let your child knock it down as a reward.
  • Hide a noisy toy – Start by partially hiding the toy so it can be seen and heard and progress to completely hiding it so your child has to rely on hearing and listening.

Who can implement these activities?

Anyone can carry out these activities by combining strategies within everyday play. The therapy team at Integrated Treatment Services can advise you on the best way to improve these skills. Ask us a question and our friendly therapists will be happy to answer.