Ways to Get Your Gifted Child's Attention

Father trying to get attention of his son
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Does your child ignore you when you call? Do you have to repeat yourself over and over? Do you tell your child to get ready to go somewhere and then find that he or she is still in pajamas? Gifted kids often seem to be in their own little worlds. They can be so engrossed in an activity or thought that they seem to be unaware of the world around them.

If this sounds like your child, you are no doubt frequently frustrated. However, there are three simple techniques you can use to help your child pay attention and keep you from getting frustrated.

Make Physical Contact

Try touching your child lightly on the shoulder or arm as you address them by name. The physical touch helps bring a gifted child who is engrossed in an activity or thought back to the world. Think of it as something of a bridge from the internal world your child is in and the outer world around them. Once back in the world, your child will find it easier to focus on what you are saying.

Give Early Alerts

These are notices that help prepare your child mentally to move from one activity to another. For example, if you want your child to get ready for bed, don't wait until it's actually time to get ready for bed. Instead, start 10 minutes or so sooner. Give the first notice and let your child know they have 10 minutes left to finish the current activity or thought. You may need to make some in-person contact with your child or offer light tough to make sure they've heard acknowledged you.

However, don't expect your child to be ready in 10 more minutes, especially when you first start using this technique. You have to give another alert in another couple of minutes. And another alert in another couple of minutes. Don't wait until the 10 minutes are up and expect them to be ready after just one alert.

Part of the idea behind the alert system is to help children move from their mental world to the real world and keep them there.

Use Timers

If your child has a good sense of time, you might be able to use a timer to help your child keep track of time. For example, if you want to give your child 10 more minutes for an activity, set a timer and let your child know that they have only ten minutes left to play and that when the alarm goes off, it is time to stop.

If your child doesn't have a good sense of time, this technique might not work so well. However, it can be used in conjunction with the early alert system until your child develops a sense of time.

Sometimes parents are concerned when their children appear to be so deeply involved in their own little worlds. However, it is not really anything to be concerned about, unless it is a constant state.

Usually, gifted children simply get caught up in their thoughts and lose track of what is going on around them. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. It suggests that they able to concentrate deeply on an activity. Being able to focus on an activity means that they may have reached a state of "flow."

2 Sources
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  1. Shi J, Tao T, Chen W, Cheng L, Wang L, Zhang X. Sustained Attention in Intellectually Gifted Children Assessed Using a Continuous Performance Test. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(2):e57417. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057417

  2. National Association for Gifted Children. Resources for Parents.

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.