OT - It's Hard To Concentrate  

It’s hard to concentrate when ….

If you have ever been told that your child has attention or concentration difficulties, there may be several contributing factors.  Early detection and intervention will help to improve their concentration.

You have low muscle tone:

Children with low muscle tone have difficulty maintaining an upright posture when seated at the desk.  This will affect their endurance and stamina, which often makes them lethargic and “unresponsive” in class.  Children with low muscle tone often wiggle and fidget in their chair and this can be interpreted as concentration difficulties.

You have difficulty processing sensory input:

Sensory processing/integration is the child’s ability to react to stimuli in the environment and inside their bodies.  These senses are touch, taste, body position, movement, sight, sound and smell.

Children may over or under respond to certain stimuli.  Children who have sensory processing difficulties may:

  • Touch:  Avoid touching textures – Be unaware of being dirty or being touched – chew on shirts and pens
  • Movement:  Avoid moving/ls unaware of falling – Craves fast and spinning movement
  • Body position:  May be rigid and uncoordinated – Lacks inner drive to move and play – Craves bear hugs and being squeezed
  • Sight:  Gets overexcited with too much to look at – Ignores objects in visual field and falls over them – Seeks scenes and screens to stare at
  • Sounds:  Covers ears to close out sounds – Ignores ordinary sounds but responds to abnormal sounds – Welcomes loud noises
  • Smells:  Objects to odours others don’t – Doesn’t smell unpleasant smells – Seeks strong odours
  • Tastes:  Objects to textures and temperatures of food – Eats overly spicy food – Licks inedible objects

Children who are unable to regulate their responses to stimuli may present with concentration difficulties.

You have difficulty performing/understanding a task:

Children who have difficulty understanding a task will find reasons to leave their desk, eg: constantly go to teacher’s desk, go to toilet or stand up to sharpen their pencil.  They will avoid tasks that are difficult for them and this will affect their concentration.

You get tired doing fine motor tasks:

Children who have difficulty holding their pencils correctly, press too hard when writing or finding cutting tasks difficult often “fidget” and “play around” at their desks.  This can be seen as difficulty in concentrating.

You can’t plan and organize an activity:

Some children find it difficult to get going with an activity.  Others spend excessive time rubbing out, repeating a task or finding the necessary pencils, rulers etc to complete a task.  Children who have difficulty with the morning routine independently often have concentration difficulties.

You avoid crossing the middle:

If a child avoids crossing the midline they will move their bodies from side to side in their chair, turn the page/book as they write or draw and have difficulty working from left to right across the page.  This affects concentration and attention as the child is constantly moving and not able to focus on the task.

You have poor memory skills:

Memory skills are closely linked to concentration skills.  Children who spend too much time playing technological games, watching TV do not develop memory skills.  They rely on prompts from the screen or game.  Parents may become concerned that their child knows all the spelling words at home but forgets them in the test on Friday.

You have a poor diet:

Unhealthy diets, excessive fast foods, colourants in drinks and sweets and lack of omega oils in a diet will affect the child’s ability to concentrate.

You lack routine and discipline and if you have a poor sleep pattern:

Children who have no routine and are allowed to do as they wish do not adjust well to the rules and regulations at school and will have difficulties concentrating.  Children, who do not go to bed at regular times every night, stay up late to watch television or who have disturbed sleep patterns have difficulty concentrating in class.

Concentration and attention difficulties can be influenced by various factors.  Discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher and request the necessary assistance or referral to a professional.

By:  Adele Spear                                                                               083 665 6334
Occupational Therapist


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