How to Improve Your Child's Attention in School

Girl (6-7) sitting in classroom with head in hands, students in background
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Students with learning disabilities sometimes have difficulty paying attention in class. This is particularly true of students who also have an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These tips can help used alone or with a comprehensive behavior intervention plan (BIP).

Helping a Child With ADHD With Their Attention Span

  • Seat the student near the teacher for instruction.
  • Provide a quiet area for seat work or consider a study carrel, stall, or cubicle.
  • Pair the student near others who model appropriate study habits. Watch the situation to ensure the model students are able to work. If this arrangement causes unfair disruption of their work, try another method.
  • Ensure students have adequate physical space between them.
  • Increase the amount of time the student has to complete the task.
  • Break assignments down into smaller tasks to help the student focus on finishing each part. Some students become overwhelmed when given too much information to process at once.
  • Help the student determine what tasks need to be done in what order. Help them organize their work with checklists, and have them check off items as they complete them.
  • Consider using a timer to help the child track the amount of time they have to complete the tasks.
  • Reduce the amount of work the child must complete. For example, consider shortening spelling lists, reducing the number of pages they must read, or reducing the number of questions they must answer.
  • Provide guidance in multiple forms. Provide visual and hands-on models, written directions, spoken directions, and check for the student's understanding several times while they work. Give frequent feedback on things they are doing well and the things they need to correct.
  • In some cases, copying other students' notes can help students with inattention problems. In other cases, it is not helpful because the child may see even less reason to focus on what is being said in class. If you try this strategy, observe the student determine if it is effective. Allowing for recordings of lectures or providing the student with a teacher-made outline of instruction in class may also be helpful. Again, however, observe to determine the effectiveness of these interventions.
  • Use cues to encourage the child to get back on task. Agree ahead of time what those cues will be. A touch on the shoulder, a hand on their desk, a tap on the blackboard, flipping the light switch with a general prompt to the class such as, "Everyone should be reading silently on chapter three now. We're quiet and looking at the textbooks."
  • Some students will need more direct assistance such as a physical prompt. A touch on the shoulder with a reminder to get back to work can help.
  • Some children may need more structure as in behavior intervention plan (BIP) to improve their attention.
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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other Concerns and Conditions with ADHD. Updated September 4, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. Teaching Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Instructional Strategies and Practices.

  3. Pfiffner LJ, Haack LM. Behavior Management for School-Aged Children with ADHD. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2014;23(4):731-746. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2014.05.014