Focus Pocus

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focus pocus“Focus Pocus” was Ron’s Facebook status the other day. I didn’t ask him about it, but I can only imagine why he posted. Maybe in the throes of studying, Facebook beckoned. More likely, in the throes of Facebooking, his conscience called him to study.

Anyhow, it’s a great title. There are many little ‘magical’ strategies that help improve focus. None of them work all of the time – nothing works all of the time for our kids! All of them work some of the time, and chances are one of the following will work for you today:

Limit the Viewing Area – Cut down on distractions by limiting what the eye can see – or what the ear can hear.

  • When reading, use a plain 3×5 or 4×6 index card with a small area cut out in the center for lines of print to show when reading. This blocks out everything on the page except what is being read. Make your own, or purchase this Typoscope for fifty cents.
  • In class or at home, give your child a study carrel. It can be as elaborate as the ones they use at the library, or as simple as a box cut out. (When Joe was in fourth grade, that’s what his teacher used.) Check out these study carrels for ADHD, which are cheaper than I ever imagined.
  • Have your child do homework in an area that is visually plain. Limit things on the wall, on shelves, on the floor. Close the door, or block the view with a sheet. My office – which used to be study central – still has only one picture on the wall.
  • Keep the television off – even if it’s in the next room. Our guys could hear – and pay attention to – the television if it were on downstairs and across the house. We had the unpopular rule of no television for anybody on school nights. I know, we’re strange.

Take It In Spurts Hooked on Phonics taught me this strategy – and boy does it work. Break things down into smaller bites, like a telephone number.

  • Instead of giving your child one page with 20 math problems, copy the problems five at a time onto four sheets of paper. You can copy by hand or using a photocopier with an enlarger.
  • When your child has material to read, change it up. Read the first section to your child, have her read the next section aloud to you, then read the third section silently. As always, make sure the material is understood.
  • Make small goals/rewards for work. Section an orange, and say, write two definitions, then have a section. Do part one of the homework contract, and run out and get the mail.

Keep the Real Task in Mind – There are multiple skills at use for each task your child is given. It’s important to figure out the primary purpose of an exercise, and make sure that is where the major focus is placed. In order to do this, it’s okay to occasionally do some of the non-focus stuff for your kids. You should let the teacher know when (and why) you give extra help.

  • If your child has problems in the math book, you copy them onto the paper. (It’s about math, not copying.)
  • Occasionally, read social studies out loud to your child, instead of having him read it silently. (The important part is the content.)
  • Gather everything needed for the homework session. (Work on organization tomorrow!)
About Kayla

Kayla Fay is a freelance writer and the mother of four boys, three of whom have been formally diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD. When she started “Who Put the Ketchup in the Medicine Cabinet?” in 2002, her sons were ages 8 through 14, when her life was a “progression of dirty laundry, lost homework, misunderstood Algebra, and a whole lot of love and fun”.

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