What do we mean by attention? What does it mean to have learning and attention issues?

Attention is crucial to everything we do. Being aware of our surroundings, listening while others speak, reading, writing, learning and remembering all require our undivided attention. Most of us take this ability for granted, operating under the assumption that it’s a normal human function. In fact, attention is constantly being drawn by thoughts, stimuli, memories and needs, always in competition between coexisting demands.

Because attention is essential for making new memory, fragmented or divided attention can have a negative impact on learning. When focus is scattered between simultaneous stimuli, the brain circuits responsible for coordinating and organizing our thoughts are intermittently activated, resulting in sporadic, patchy learning.

The ability to sustain attention, regardless of one’s interest in the subject matter, is not innate. It is a skill that comes naturally to some people, but needs to be cultivated and developed in others. ATENTIVmynd™ is a tool for developing that skill.

What does it look like when a child struggles with attention?

When your child is asked to sit and listen to his teacher speak, he may or may not find the subject matter interesting. The same can be said for studying and homework, which can be tedious or repetitive. Attention is easily drawn by interest, but thwarted by boredom resulting from disinterest. When information is new, exciting or fun, attention is rarely a problem. However, much of what we ask our children to do every day does not meet these criteria. For many kids, focus is either on or off. When the interest is there, its’s on. When it’s not, it’s off.

Children for whom interest in a task is required for attention typically have problems learning and staying focused. When this is the case, topics of little or no interest seem nearly impossible to conquer. Teachers notice this easily, since distraction, daydreaming and restlessness are obvious in the classroom. Parents notice as well, especially when asking their child to perform a task or participate in an activity he finds the least bit boring.

When this “on and off” attention is present, and it becomes clear that your child has great difficulty overcoming the ”interest requirement“ to sustain focus, learning and attention become issues for which help is essential. ATENTIVmynd™ is an evidence-based, fun, engaging way for children to develop the ability to turn on their focus when they want to. By playing a game that is interesting and entertaining using his own cognitive signature, your child will activate the “coach” region of his brain, bringing the rest of the players into line. Through an ingenious paradox, ATENTIVmynd™ uses a child’s innate curiosity to create attention, independent of interest.

What can I do to help my child focus and pay attention to the best of their ability?

While the ability to pay attention and focus can be related to level of interest, and to some extent genetics, there are some basic factors within our control that also affect attention. These variables are neatly summarized by the acronym SEED, which stands for Sleep, Exercise, Environment, and Diet.

When we sleep, our brains clean out the byproducts of a day spent thinking and doing, while recharging stores of important neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Without adequate sleep, our brains will not become completely cleaned up and recharged. Sleep deprivation can lead to lack of focus, depression, and low energy.

For adults, the amount of sleep required for optimal brain functioning varies between 6 and 9 hours per night. For children, that number is generally between 8 and 10. Teenagers typically get less sleep during the week when activities and studies keep them up late, then try to catch up on needed rest to focus during the day.

Exercise gets the cardiovascular system pumping, circulating oxygen and nutrients to muscle and brain cells. A wealth of research has shown that exercise improves not only physical, but also mental health. By working their bodies, children experience better mood, less anxiety, improved sleep, and more control over their impulses and attention. When a child sits in classrooms all day, only to come home and watch TV, play video games or study, he will be restless and unfocused. Any physical activity that gets blood pumping for at least 30 minutes will have beneficial effects on attention.

While sleep and exercise can be measured, environment is characterized by quality rather than quantity. The environment in which your child thrives depends to some extent on his or her unique personality and intellectual characteristics. There are, however, some shared qualities common to all cognitively optimized surroundings.

Having a space in which to work and keep the necessary tools for the task at hand is important. Such a space need not be private, but having the option of quiet and solitude is ideal. Disorder, uncertainty and chaos in the external environment can lead to a scattered and distracted mental space, so minimizing mess and interruptions can maximize focus and attention.

Silence is not always necessary. Some children find listening to music or having some other type of noise in the background helps them to focus. For some minds, the presence of steady, controlled extraneous stimuli actually improves attention on what is pertinent. For others, however, even the slightest sound or sight can be distracting. Most children have some intuitive sense of this, and will gravitate toward background noise or peace and quiet.

Having routine, predictability and structure is key to optimal attention and learning. When a child knows what to expect, the inefficiencies and distractions created by transitions and choices made in the moment are reduced. Not every day has to be the same to create structure, of course.

Additionally, children for whom attention doesn‘t come easily often find learning easier in a classroom environment with fewer people, more individual attention, greater flexibility to pursue their interests, and teachers who are in tune with their learning styles. Although many schools can provide this type of setting, others are unable to provide the focus rich, distraction poor environment in which attention-challenged kids thrive.

Much like exercise, diet can have a strong impact on mental health and functioning just like it effects our physical health. Having a healthy, well-balanced diet helps children to perform at their best. Some specific foods may also make it easier or harder to pay attention. When time is set aside for physical activity, study, eating and sleeping, however, productivity and peace of mind can blossom.

Can I know if my child is improving with ATENTIVmynd™?

There are a myriad of ways in which parents can keep track of their child’s academic performance, but none are ideal. Grades, teacher reports, test scores and behavioral charts provide some evidence, pointing toward success or struggle. Observing your child’s behavior can give an indication of how well he listens, controls impulses, sustains attention and interacts with peers. All of this data is subjective, however, and prone to bias in the observer or method of measurement. Some teachers are very tolerant of active children and are skilled at redirecting their attention to the task in front of them. Some children do well with multiple choice tests, while others are more adept at conveying their thoughts in written or verbal form. There is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to impulse control, activity level and attention. With this plethora of potentially conflicting data, how can a parent determine how their child is really doing?

ATENTIVmynd™ makes it easy for parents to follow their child’s developing skills. As game play progresses, improvements become evident and visible via remarkable Performance Reporting reporting, which parents can view on their mobile devices, computers or tablets. Performance Reporting allows parents to be involved and informed without being intrusive, as data from the game streams through to visually intuitive, graphic representations of their child’s improving attention skills. This quantum leap forward in objective, personalized data analysis lets parents share in their child’s accelerated cognitive skill development, giving them a front row seat at one of the most important, transformative games their child will ever play.

Everything begins with attention. ATENTIVmynd™ is a revolutionary game, representing the evolution of evidence-based neuroscience. Through play, your child can develop skills essential for learning. ATENTIVmynd™ is now an essential piece of the attention puzzle. It is the way forward, reaching beyond academic, environmental and genetic factors to accelerate your child’s innate abilities for focus, empowerment and achievement. The future is here.

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