One of the foundation skills for strong learning is attention. Attention is the ability to focus and process information. There are different components of attention.
Sustained Attention is your ability to stick with a task over time. Sustained attention is important in listening to stories, conversation, watching a TV show or movie, and reading.
Selective Attention is the ability to focus on stimuli when there is competing stimuli. There can be outside distractions (other people talking, phones ringing) or internal distractions (thoughts in one’s head, worries, and daydreams). If distractions pull your attention away, you can miss much of the information you need to process. Selective attention is especially important in busy environments such as school and work settings, grocery stores, the mall, and many sports and recreational activities.
Alternating attention is the ability to shift attention from one focus to another. It requires good working memory to hold or temporarily hold information. Alternating attention is needed for driving, meal preparation, running a household, participating in a business meeting, listening to a lecture, taking notes and most group activities.
Divided attention is used when we are performing two tasks at the same time. We are usually more successful if the tasks are fairly different from each other, such as something automatic and physical (walking, riding a stationary bike) and something requiring more cognitive skills (talking, reading).
Whether you or your child has difficulties in organization, reading, note taking, math or another skill, one key area to improve must be attention. Your reading and other skills won’t make as dramatic improvement or advance as quickly unless you can boost your ability to pay attention.