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Task Modifications For Children Who Can’t Focus

written by: Vonnie Chestnut • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 6/6/2012

It is hard for any child to sit for long periods of time working on one subject, or one paper. Children have short attention spans in general. How much harder then is it for a child who has ADHD, or comprehensive problems, who just can’t focus on the task at hand?

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    A child who has difficulty focusing on the completion of any task, such as children with ADD and those with comprehensive problems can very easily give up on the task quickly simply due to the overwhelming amount of information or questions that they are being asked to complete.

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    Managing Frustration & Boosting Self-Esteem

    They may be asked to complete 25 math problems on a page that was handed out to the entire class. The child looks at the paper, and although he/she may know the answers to the first few questions, after that, he or she will simply stop. They are simply overwhelmed by the writing on the page. To us, we see 1 page of problems, where the child with special needs sees a mountain of numbers that they will never be able to figure out. In an effort not to become frustrated, they simply choose not to do the work.

    Although this keeps them from becoming frustrated at themselves, it also leads to low self-esteem, a sense of failure, and self worth. To compensate, they may act out with inappropriate behavior, or complain of not feeling well, in an effort that allows them to be dismissed from completing the task.

    To deter the child’s feelings of inadequacy, a simple modification can be done to insure the completion of any task. Teachers in the classroom can use this modification to complete expected work. Parents can use this modification in the home, for certain chores that may be expected of the child, but never get completed.

    This form of modification, for a child who has difficulty focusing on a task, allows them to attain set goals, which leads to confidence, and a higher-level of self-esteem. This in turn leads to a child, who in the future, can make these modifications on their own which will allow them to be productive and successful adults.

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    Break One Task In To Several

    This modification consists of taking the large task and turning it into several small tasks.

    In the classroom, as with the example above, the sheet of paper with 25 math problems on it could be folded, so that only 5 problems are showing. Make sure the child knows that all they have to do are those 5 problems.

    • Upon the completion of those 5 problems, the paper could be folded again to show the next five problems, and again let the child know they only have to focus on the 5 problems showing.
    • When folding the paper, it should be done in such a way that only the 5 problems to be solved are showing. If the completed 5 are also showing, that could prove to be a distraction.
    • After each set of 5 are completed the paper should be folded again, until the entire sheet is compete.
    • Upon completion, unfold the paper and show the child they indeed completed the entire assignment.
    • This is proof of their accomplishment and will boost their self-confidence immensely.

    At home, the same modification could be used.

    • Instead of making a list of chores that are to be completed, only list one chore.
    • After the child has completed the task, erase the previous chore, or mark it off, and then add 1 more chore.
    • Continue adding one chore at a time until the entire list is complete.
    • Of course words of praise and encouragement, even rewards after each completed chore will only add to the child’s enthusiasm of completing a task.

    When verbally giving instructions that include more than one task at a time, keep the same modification in mind.

    • An example would be, to tell the child to take out the trash, make their bed, and pick up their toys.
    • With a child who has difficulty focusing, by the time they head towards the first task, they have been distracted and forget the initial instruction, let alone the other two tasks.
    • Again, modify the request by instructing the child to take out the trash. After that has been completed, then instruct onto the next task.