Sit still and concentrate! And why it doesn’t work

Posted: 20 May, 2016

By: Annabella Sequeira

Section: Education

Sit-still-and-concentrate-And-why-it-doesnt-work

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children today. In a classroom full of children, there is bound to be a few children who are correctly diagnosed and medicated accordingly.

ADHD can and does share similar signs to that of sensory processing difficulties, and they can look very similar to the untrained eye. Carol S. Kranowitz called them the “two look-alike” disorders in her book, The Out-of-Sync Child. If a child is frequently, but not always inattentive, one should ask where, when and how often does the inattentiveness happen? What causes the distraction and what is actually happening when the child is concentrating?

In a classroom, a child may have great difficulty making sense of the overwhelming sensory input coming into his body. All his senses are being inundated with information from the environment – sounds, lights, movements, touch, smells, taste and movement. He may not know what to focus on or what to ignore, some input may be bothering him immensely or the input may not even be noticed. Some sensations may be mild irritations and some may be a big distraction.

Noise, posters and other children’s movements will easily distract children with low thresholds. They hate sitting in a ring and avoid being touched by other children. They are likely to have a meltdown when overwhelmed by sensory input.

Children with high thresholds will constantly fidget and move, be impulsive and loud, and wil constantly seek sensory input. Both types of thresholds impact on a child level of alertness. Depending on the need of the classroom, and individual needs, the following strategies can be used for improving concentration in the classroom:

Alerting
• Fidget tools
• Movement breaks (trampoline, run an errand, hand out books)
• Action songs
• Chewing crunchy foods such as fruit and carrots
• Move ’n Sit® Cushion
• Adjusting voice: Speak louder or faster

Calming
• Deep pressure (bear hugs)
• Chair pushups
• Deep breathing exercises
• Tennis balls on the legs of the chair
• Clearing a cluttered desk top
• Drinking through a straw or a sports bottle
• Reducing visual distractions – posters, hanging mobiles, artwork
• Creating a quiet corner in the classroom – tent or cave
• Headphones (no music) to reduce noise

When using fidget tools, explain to the class that they are used to help a person focus on their work. If it does not help, then the child does not need it. If the child misuses it, take it away and only return it when the child is ready to use correctly.

Inattention as a result of sensory processing will not be “fixed” by medication. Understanding a child’s sensory needs will go a long way into helping him cope in the classroom. Adapting his environment and providing him with appropriate coping strategies will help him in concentrating and focusing better.

More reading:
1. The Sensory Child Gets Organized (Carolyn Dalgliesh)
2. The Out-of-Sync Child (Carol Stock Kranowitz)
3. The Out-of Sync Child Has Fun (Carol Stock Kranowitz)
4. Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight (Sharon Heller)
5. Raising a Sensory Smart Child (Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske)
6. The Sensory Sensitive Child – Practical Solutions for Out-of-Bounds Behavior (Karen A. Smith & Karen R Grouze)