Developing Sitting Tolerance and Attention Building Skills in Children with special educational needs (specifically-Autism Spectrum Disorders and ADHD)
In my last blog, “Rethinking Sitting Tolerance as a Measure of Child’s Attention Span“, we shed light on why sitting tolerance is an inadequate measure and suggested alternative considerations when assessing attention and focus in children with autism. In this blog, we will explore effective approaches and techniques to support the development of these important skills.
Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often face challenges in maintaining sitting tolerance and building attention skills. These difficulties can impact their ability to engage in educational and social activities. However, with the right strategies and interventions, parents, caregivers, and educators can play a crucial role in helping these children develop sitting tolerance and attention building skills.
Understanding Sitting Tolerance and Attention Challenges
Sitting tolerance refers to a child’s ability to remain seated and engaged in an activity for an appropriate period of time. Children with ASD and ADHD may struggle with sitting tolerance due to sensory sensitivities, impulsivity, and difficulties with self-regulation. Attention building skills involve the ability to focus on a task, filter out distractions, and sustain attention. Both conditions can significantly impact a child’s learning and social interactions.
Helping children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) develop sitting tolerance and attention-building skills requires a tailored and patient approach.
Here are some practical strategies and techniques to consider:
1. Creating a Structured Environment
Children with ASD and ADHD often benefit from a structured and predictable environment. Establish a consistent daily routine a proper structure around the child’s daily activities in while day that should includes designated times for activities, breaks, necessary instructions to keep in mind and transitions. Visual schedules or timers can help our children understand and anticipate changes, reducing anxiety and increasing their ability to sit for longer periods.
2. Sensory Considerations
Many children with ASD and ADHD experience sensory sensitivities.
a.)Incorporate sensory breaks to prevent sensory overload.
b.)Activities such as deep breathing, fidget tools, or sensory-friendly toys, weighted jackets or blankets can help regulate sensory input and improve focus.
c.)Adaptive Seating: Provide comfortable seating options that allow for movement without distraction. Wiggle cushions, therapy balls, or rocking chairs can help restless children focus better.
●Multi-Sensory Learning: Incorporate various sensory modalities into learning. Hands-on activities, visual aids, and auditory cues can enhance engagement and retention.
The above Sensory Considerations and Multisensory learning approach can help the child regulate their sensory input, making it easier for them to sit comfortably and engage in tasks effectively.
3. Task Analysis- Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks
Long tasks can be overwhelming for children with attention challenges. Break down activities into smaller, manageable steps. Set clear expectations and offer positive reinforcement for completing each step. Gradually increase the duration of activities over time as their sitting tolerance improves. This prevents overwhelming feelings and allows for gradual progress toward sitting tolerance and sustained attention. This also allows a child to develop independent skills and a sense of achievement of task completion.
●Time Management: Use visual timers or counter to signal the duration of an activity. Gradually increase the time as their sitting tolerance improves. Provide positive reinforcement for completing tasks within the allotted time.
●Gradual Increase: Start with short periods of focused activities and gradually extend the time. Celebrate even small achievements to build confidence and motivation.
4. Incorporate Movement Breaks
Integrate movement breaks into learning sessions. Short bursts of physical activity can help children with ADHD expend excess energy, allowing them to return to the task with improved focus. Short movement breaks can be work wonders for our children as these breaks allow them to release excess energy and refocus their attention. Consider incorporating physical activities like stretching, jumping, taking a round of entire floor or dancing between sitting tasks.
5. Visual and Auditory Supports
●Visual cues, such as visual schedules, charts, and checklists, can provide clear instructions and help children stay on track.
●Auditory cues, like timers or gentle reminders, can signal transitions or the end of an activity. These tools provide a concrete representation of time and tasks, aiding in understanding and transitioning between activities.
6. Individualized Interests: Interests based activities
Incorporate the child’s interests into the activities whenever possible. This personal connection can enhance their motivation and engagement, making it easier for them to sit and focus. Engage children in activities that align with their interests. Children are more likely to maintain attention when they are passionate about what they’re doing.
Task Choice: Offer choices within structured activities. This empowers children and provides a sense of control, potentially reducing resistance to sitting.
7. Use Reinforcement Strategies
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool. Offer praise, rewards, or a favorite activity after completing a sitting task. Gradually reduce the frequency of rewards as the child’s sitting tolerance and attention skills improve.
●Use of Technology: Interactive educational apps and games can be engaging and provide immediate feedback, helping to maintain attention. Technology can be used as reinforcement strategy.
●Positive Reinforcement: Implement a rewards system to motivate and reinforce positive behavior. Offer small incentives for sustained attention or completing tasks.
8. Social Interaction: Pairing activities with social interactions can increase engagement. Cooperative tasks or group activities can encourage children to focus and participate.
9.Clear Instructions: Provide clear, concise, and simple instructions. Avoid information overload and offer guidance when needed.
10. Modeling Behavior: Model appropriate sitting and attention behaviors yourself. Children often learn by observing and imitating adults.
11. Collaborate with Professionals
Consult with therapists, educators, and healthcare professionals who specialize in working with children with ASD and ADHD. They can provide personalized strategies and intervention plans based on the child’s specific needs and challenges. Work closely with these professionals to develop a holistic plan tailored to the child’s needs. Regular communication ensures consistent strategies across environments.
Developing sitting tolerance and attention building skills in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and ADHD requires patience, understanding, and a tailored approach. By creating a structured environment, addressing sensory needs, and using individualized strategies, parents, caregivers, and educators can play a pivotal role in helping these children succeed. Remember that progress may be gradual and it’s important to be patient and flexible. With consistent efforts and a supportive network, these children can develop the skills they need to engage in meaningful activities and interactions.
Remember, what works for one child might not work for another, so continually assess and adjust strategies based on the child’s responses and needs. Hope you all liked my today’s blog on various strategies to build sitting tolerance and improving attention in the children with special educational needs.
Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi