Improving your child’s attention requires some change in focus
As I started helping my son with his short spans of attention, I realized that most of the help, advice, therapies and medications for autism were aimed to make the child more “normal” first so they can do things like pay more attention and focus for longer periods of time.
The problem with asking autistic children to be more normal is that we are asking them to be less of themselves, like a left handed child who is asked to be right handed.
At some point, in the middle of a lot of frustration with my son’s short spans of attention, I dared to consider an alternative; what if my objective for my son was not that he would be normal, but that he would be a happy, healthy, independent, and fulfilled individual with autism. I started paying more attention to him, correcting less and joining him more. My focus started to change.
How do children with autism pay attention?
Contrary to appearances children with autism do not want to live entirely in their own worlds, they ache to interact with the world around them. They might not know how; parents and caregivers might not know how to teach them. How do autistic people communicate and interact with the real world? Do they pay attention at all?
Oh yes, they do, a person with autism is not less attentive because they don’t pay enough attention, they look inattentive because they are often capable of paying total attention.
I know this, I breathe this, yet as a non-autistic person, I still forget and get aggravated trying to get my son to pay some attention, because my focus is on the typical signs of attention, which a typical child would display but a child with autism might not. This misunderstanding happens to parents and teachers alike.
My son was jumping on the bed, looking at the TV, and reproducing another TV show with his voice, as I was trying to teach him some letter sounds. At some point I sighed and said out loud: “He is not listening”. I said it out loud as if there was nobody else there.
My incredible boy hears me, and the TV, and his own voice, and still jumping told me: “But I am listening, M sounds mmmm”…
And by that he reminded me most autistic people don’t need to stop what they are doing, they don’t need to pause the TV, look at you with owl eyes, or politely nod, yet they are paying attention.
My son is verbal and was able to tell me off, how about the non-verbal children who eventually learn to use a computer to communicate and it turns out, to the parents’ horror, they have been listening and paying attention the whole time?
More than attention deficit, autism come with an attention difference.
…movement and particularly jumping help them connect with their bodies and therefore pay attention 😉