Imagine this. You’re driving in traffic. Late for your child’s soccer practice. Important breaking news about your city is coming over the radio. Your cell phone bleeps out a tone alerting you to a text. One child is complaining about being hungry and wanting the special kids merry meal from the fast food restaurant you just passed. The other is wailing loudly because his game boy has been slyly snatched from his hands.
Where is your attention focussed at this point?
Just then another driver cuts you off (surely he is a brain surgeon rushing to save a life). You have to swerve and narrowly miss the cars around you.
Where is your attention during this brilliant life saving super parent evasion?
Was it on that small space of safety you spotted? The feel of your hands on the wheel and your foot hitting the brakes?
Despite the numerous sensory inputs at that moment you probably focussed on only a few. Only what was absolutely important.
What Grabs Our Attention Seems Important NOT What Seems Important Grabs Our Attention
Our brain deals with this huge array of sensory input all day every day. We don’t notice how efficient and fast it is at this. Until a moment like this. All the while the brain is working hard to keep us alive, by choosing the right sensory inputs to pay attention to.
Here’s the strange thing. It’s pretty obvious that what is important gets our attention but the opposite is true also. What gets our attention seems important. Best selling author and Regents professor Emeritus, Robert Cialdini, tells us this in his book Pre-Suasion.
So what if a few of those sensory inputs you have were misfiring. Maybe some were coming through loud and clear and others were coming through jumbled and incoherent. Do you think you might have trouble paying attention to the right thing? Or paying attention at all?
Weaknesses in Auditory Skills Are Linked to Attention Problems
This is what happens when a child has a weakness in micro-skills. Micro-skills are foundational learning skills. They can be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. They are the skills that not only allow us to interact with the world but also learn academics such as reading, math, writing, or spelling.
So, for example, what if auditory discrimination was weak? This is actually very common in some forms of dyslexia and it is a big cause for reading difficulty. Auditory discrimination helps us read because, when we read, we mentally hear the words in our head. So if we have no mental map for certain sounds, thinks can get very confusing and difficult.
Not only would this weakness in auditory discrimination cause a difficulty in reading, but also a confusion in one’s world.
Since the brain always tries to find a coping mechanism it may just filter certain sounds out, or maybe replace them. It will also likely try to find another, stronger micro-skill, to try to cope in another way.
No matter how it does it. The situation is not ideal. The brain is trying to find workarounds to cope.
And this may display itself as an attention problem.
Mindfullness Allows Us To Put Attention Where It Should Be
Think back to the car scene. Your brain went to the exact sensory input it needed at that moment. What if one of those particular sensory perceptions were weak and the brain instead chose another as a coping mechanism? What if you were so auditorily dominant that you decided the child’s demands were more important that navigating the car to safety? I’m sure you can see how using the wrong sensory signals could lead to an unfortunate end.
In the same way, we can see that if a micro-skill is weak, say auditory processing, that not only will reading be affected, but also the ability to pay attention. And, as a matter of fact, there is a strong correlation between auditory processing problems and ADHD. This study shows the connection between auditory processing and ADHD. Numerous studies suggest that at least 50% of children diagnosed with ADHD may also have an auditory processing difficulty.
Attention Problems or Academic Problems? Chicken or Egg?
So we’re left with a chicken or egg question. A distracted and/or attention deficit child may seem like they can’t read because of the attention deficit. But it may be the other way around, the weak micro-skill processing may be the cause of the attention difficulty.
Think back to how many times you may have heard “He just can’t seem to pay attention”. How often are we attributing not learning well to lack of focus. When instead it may be a micro-skill problem such as auditory discrimination that causes the lack of focus.
This may also be why mind-body exercises such as kung fu, tai chi, and mindful meditation have such a profound effect on the ability to focus and pay attention. These practices cause us to be more centered and mindful. Because it brings focus inward it allows us to choose between sensory inputs more easily. Rather than being distracted by every stimulus we can pick the beneficial stimulus and be more focused.
This is why the Learning Success System uses both micro-skill development exercises and mind-body exercises to develop not only a child’s ability to read well and perform well in other academics, but also to calm anxieties and develop focus.
Quite often the cause and the effect are not as obvious as they seem. We often think that importance causes attention. But it is often the other way around. We can also attribute poor learning skills to lack of focus. And that also may be the other way around. If you are looking for an easy, at-home program to help your child through reading or other academic difficulties and you’d like to help your child become more centered, more focused, and more confident, then get your copy of the Learning Success System.
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