Understanding Will - Part 3: Developing concentration, reducing distraction


This is the third in a series of posts, Understanding Will, in which we share what we have learnt about Will and how in understanding him better we have helped him to use different learning strategies.

Will said:

"I find it difficult to concentrate and am easily distracted, especially by noise and movement."

What is going on in Will's brain?

Will is unable to filter task relevant from task irrelevant information efficiently and this makes it difficult for him to block out or inhibit distracting information such as background noise. This makes it difficult for Will to select task relevant information and to concentrate.

As Will struggles to identify what is relevant to a task, he starts to take on more irrelevant information. This increases the burden on his working memory and he struggles to maintain focus.

Inefficiencies in Will's ability to filter out task irrelevant information, such as environmental noise, also reduces his ability to shift attention and to monitor tasks. As a result, Will can rapidly lose the information stored in the limited capacity of his working memory and fail to complete activities.

The Impact

Will finds staying on task challenging and quickly loses focus. He makes errors or abandons tasks completely.

Strategies that help Will learn

  • Engage Will in sessions (individual, pairs, small or large groups) which are structured as short, focused study periods with scheduled activity breaks Ex. stretching.
  • Provide Will with a timer that defines the length of time he needs to focus.
  • Use a secret signal, agreed with Will prior to the session, to indicate when he is off task.
  • Provide Will with a visual timetable to remind him of the sequence of events (visual timetables may be daily or session specific)
  • Provide Will with printed copies of lectures/PowerPoints etc., preferably prior to the session.
  • Ensure that the key points are depicted visually such as using colour coding and highlighting.
  • Divide activities Will be participating in into sequences of small independent steps.
  • Provide Will with a checklist so that he can mark off steps on completion and his progress can be checked.
  • Provide a distraction reduced working environment for Will when possible. Ex. by providing him with headphones to reduce noise.

Anita Johnson


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