|Problem: The student appears to have difficulty paying attention (focusing, maintaining attention, shifting attentional focus, dividing attention) in academic or other domains.
Step 1: Organize observations relevant to the problematic behavior/issue
- Who is reporting the problem?
- When does it occur? (Include time of day, activities etc).
- Where does it occur?
- What tends to precede the problematic behavior/issue?
- What tends to follow the problematic behavior/issue?
- What is the age and functioning level of the student?
- Previous documentation/charts?
Step 2: Identify possible contributors to the problematic behavior/issue
In many cases, there are several contributors to the student’s identified problem. These contributors may interact with each other, therefore, it may be necessary to combine tests from different categories of possibilities. The existence of several interacting contributors may become obvious as you proceed through individual intervention experiments.
Anxiety: Some students may have difficulty attending as a result of anxiety. (See Tutorial on Anxiety.)
Relevant observations: The student appears anxious. The student may cry or express feelings of anxiety. The student may shy away from unfamiliar activities and people.
\Useful experiments for assessment and intervention:
- Observe and record the frequency and/or intensity of the problem behavior when a new teaching strategy or support is being implemented versus when it is not being implemented.
- Possible anxiety-related teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Anxiety): Try to increase the likelihood of comfort with activities and people (i.e., reduce anxiety). For example, create instructional routines in which the student can be certain of success. Pair the student with familiar peers with whom she is comfortable. Before activities, preset the student in a way designed to reduce anxiety. Possibly begin individual or group counseling sessions.
- If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, then it may be that the problem behavior is related in part to anxiety. (See Tutorial on Anxiety.)
Possible referrals: School psychologist or counselor for anxiety assessment and counseling