Getting them engaged with you!

“He doesn’t really play with a toy for long and moves on to another thing quickly.”

“I have to repeat my instructions over and over to get her to do her chores.”

“My child just says ‘no’ and walks away every time I try to help him with his homework.”

Do these situations resonate with you?

If your child has difficulties focusing on tasks and seems to be tuning out your instructions,  here are some strategies that could help improve their task engagement!

1. Is nature calling? 

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the easiest. If the child is having a hard time focusing in the moment, perhaps they need to go to the bathroom, have a drink of water, or have something to eat. If your child suddenly becomes disorganized during a task, it would be best to first check if their basic needs are being met.

2. Just-right challenge

If your child is persistently resistant and avoiding an activity that you’ve chosen, try to determine whether the task is too difficult and overwhelming for them. Are there ways that you can modify the activity to make it easier for them to succeed at it?  Conversely, does your child find the activity too simple and boring? 

3. Minimising distractions in the room 

Some children may be easily distracted by different kinds of visual stimulation they could be receiving from their environment. If possible, try to work with your child in an environment with minimal distractions. You can also put visual timers on to help your child stay on the task.

4. Setting clear expectations 

Before starting each task, set an achievable goal for your child to complete. Make sure your child understands your goals and expectations for the task at hand. This will help your child to regulate through the task better, as he knows what is expected of him. You can also try using the prompt First-Then to help your child understand your expectations.

5. Creating rewards

On top of making your expectations clear, create rewards for your child to work towards. Break down the activity into small steps and give them small rewards for each step they achieve.

For example : reward your child for sitting through every time he finishes one page. 

6. Include movement breaks 

Allow your child to have movement breaks in between activities to provide them time to regulate themselves after finishing an activity. Movement breaks can include doing jumping jacks, hanging upside down, spinning in circles etc. It is best to use a visual timer to indicate the start and finish of movement break time, and facilitate transitions back to the main activity.

There are many reasons why your child might have difficulties staying engaged in tasks. Do consult your child’s occupational therapist to further understand your child’s needs and how they can be supported across various settings.

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