Many young people come to see me as they have trouble paying attention. This can be either at school, home or both, and may have a significant impact on learning and their life.
Attention is important for several aspects of learning and allows information to be taken in. When we learn something new, the information is encoded like a temporary sticky note in our brain (working memory) and that itself requires attention. But in addition, recall of memory also requires attention. Hence, attention and working memory are both key to learning new information.
What are the red flags?
There are a number of red flags that you and/or your child might notice including:
Short attention span
Forgetting or losing things
Problems following instructions
Difficulties completing school work
Poor academic performance
Why is this happening?
Since difficulty paying attention and working memory are widely associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there are a number of other possibilities that can be contributing. Hence, it’s important that these other possibilities, which are not always obvious, not be overlooked.
Some of the other possible causes include:
Mismatched learning style as not all children learn the same say (e.g., auditory learners learn best by talking and listening, visual learners through reading and observation, tactile learners through physical touch or movement)
Anxiety and/or stress
Lack of interest and/or motivation
Low-self esteem and/or depression
Personal problems such as difficulties at home, trauma, grief or lost
Not getting proper sleep and/or nutrition and/or exercise
Specific learning disabilities, such as difficulties with reading and spelling (dyslexia), difficulties with writing (dysgraphia), difficulties with mathematics (dyscalculia)
Reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities (learning disability)
Some medications or organic illnesses, such as low thyroid function or iron deficiency
What is my approach?
As a first step, I will carry a thorough evaluation with you and/or your child. Screening questionnaires (SNAP IV, Conners comprehensive behaviour rating scale, DIVA-5, Social Communication Questionnaire, Revised Children's Anxiety and Depression Scale (and Subscales) (RCADS)), cognitive assessment, physical examination or liaison with other professionals and school will be provided if you wish.
Once the condition(s) is/are identified, I will develop a personalized treatment plan jointly with you and/or your child based on personal needs. The treatment will include an integrated approach to achieve optimal attention and working memory.
This can include:
Information and support to better understand and cope (psychoeducation)
Personal development and self-improvement
Person-centred talking therapy such as interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, play therapy, social skills therapy
Tailored learning techniques and/or behaviour learning plan with school when appropriate
Mind-body centre exercise to increase the relaxation response
Empower parents through positive parenting techniques
Promote a healthy lifestyle through exercise, diet and micronutrients
State-of-the-art medication when appropriate