Attention And Its Impact On Learning Abilities
Are you concerned your child is experiencing learning difficulties? Perhaps they’re falling behind in reading or numeracy?
In Australia, 10-16% of students are seen by their teachers to have learning difficulties with support needs beyond those usually required by a teacher.
When we talk about ‘learning difficulties’, we’re generally referring to difficulties in reading, writing and mathematics. The term is fairly generic and includes a range of situations from those children struggling to keep up with average academic standards to more serious issues influenced by a range of internal and external factors.
There are also more severe cases of persistent, long-lasting learning impairments, which can be diagnosed as learning disabilities. These are less common with a reported 4% of Australian students affected.
What Causes Learning Difficulties?
There are many factors that may impact a child’s ability to learn including unsuitable learning resources, emotional or behavioural issues, physical or sensory deficits, intellectual disabilities and even external factors such as unstable family environments.
One important influence in a child’s ability to learn that’s often overlooked is attention. According to a study compiled by Duke University in the US, attention skills are the most consistent predictor of academic success.
As part of the study, researchers looked at early academic, attention and socioemotional skills and how each contributed to academic success into young adulthood. Findings showed that children with attention problems in early childhood were 40% less likely to graduate from high school. By fifth grade, children experiencing attention difficulties had average reading scores at least 3% lower than their peers and grades at least 8% lower.
What’s more, the children identified as having attention difficulties weren’t necessarily diagnosed with clinical attention difficulties, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The study revealed even more modest attention difficulties can increase the risk for negative academic outcomes.
Why Attention Skills Are The Key To Improved Learning
When a child is able to build and fine-tune core attention skills, they improve other skills such as listening, absorbing information and memory. Effective working memory is crucial in undertaking many everyday tasks and learning activities in the classroom.
Children with improved attention have the ability to screen out irrelevant details and focus on the important issues. They can maintain attention on tasks for prolonged periods, sit still in the classroom, pay attention to the teacher, filter out distractions and control impulsive behaviours that may be disruptive to other students.
Often children have unique strengths and weaknesses in attention that contribute to their difficulties in the classroom. For instance, one child may have difficulties concentrating, whereas another may struggle to switch his or her attention from one task to the next. It’s important to understand the differences in attention so they can be targeted and treated through the right interventions and classroom strategies.
These vital skills create stronger learning abilities that can lead to higher self-esteem, happier social circles and a more positive outlook of learning and school in general.
And there are long-term benefits too. Children’s first learning experiences can deeply affect their future physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Students who do well at school often continue studies for longer, creating greater employment opportunities later in life.
Ways To Help Improve Your Child’s Learning Difficulties
Remember that positive reinforcement, love, encouragement and support will provide your child with a strong sense of self-worth, while building the foundations to overcome any challenges that may arise due to difficulties with learning.
If you can help your child face and overcome a challenge such as a learning difficulty, he or she will grow stronger and more resilient through the experience.
If you’d like to explore a practical, fun solution for improving your child’s learning, TALI Train is a digital game-based learning program, which uses repeated, targeted exercises to strengthen cognitive processes at the neural/brain level. Cognitive training targets the underlying causes of attention difficulties.
By building and strengthening core attention skills, TALI Train opens up the opportunity to improve other skills such as memory, language and learning.
Clinical trials have shown that children who completed the TALI Train program experienced greater gains in selective attention and numeracy skills (and these skills were still present six months after completion proving long-term gains).