How to Improve Attention, Behavior, and Manners by Cheryl Swope

Give Him Clear Directions
1. Stop his body from moving before giving a direction.
2. Keep directions short.
3. Include visual cues whenever possible.
4. Minimize auditory distractions during work time. Turn off background tv, radio, and music before beginning.
5. Minimize visual distractions during work time. Remove extraneous posters and visual clutter.
6. Have other children be seated or quiet when giving directions.
7. Give him an "office" with clear boundaries. Avoid large, sprawling, open work spaces.
8. Provide a simple, predictable routine outlined on a chart or visual schedule.
9. Overview the order for the day - every day - to help him internalize order.
10. If his language skills allow, have him restate or paraphrase the directions you give him.


Encourage Self-Control
1. Practice inhibitory activities: walking rather than running, speaking softly, tiptoeing on a balance beam (quiet as a mouse), walking backward on a balance beam, curling up in a ball and counting to 20, playing hide-and-seek with increasingly long count-times, playing Simon Says with directions that involve stopping movement, playing Freeze Tag.
2. Encourage reminders via his self-talk. For example, when walking down steps, say "Step and stop. Step and stop." Encourage slowed, controlled movements in the house. Have him "do over" going down the stairs carefully, walking rather than running in the hall, seating himself properly in the chair.
3. Allow moments to rest, snuggle, play outside, or look at books quietly to "recharge," rather than relying on electronic diversions. Model habits of non-screen-dependent, healthy rest and relaxation.
4. Allow ample time for sleep at night and a period of two of quiet rest during the day.
5. If applicable, use prescribed OT ankle weights, a weighted vest or weighted blanket as needed.
6. Use repetition for creating routines in therapy or teaching sessions with "over-teaching" of concepts, knowledge, and skills to promote self-regulation.
7. Play simple turn-taking games.
8. Extend attention span with "one more" (page, story) or with music (keep balancing on the board until the song is over).
9. Teach him to play an instrument or add a well-managed dance, gymnastics, or swim class for greater motor control.
10. Teach him to read well.


Strengthen His Social/Emotional Well-Being: Nurture Him while Turning His Own Focus Outward
1. Read books about relationships, love, other people. (Don Freeman - Corduroy; Beady and Thayer; Little Bear books; Boxcar Children)
2. Encourage his helpfulness. If he is energetic, harness his energy for family service: Teach a few new chores, obtain a smaller broom or hand-held vacuum, and schedule these new chores into his week.
3. Be firm and clear. Do not yell. Model self-control. Create clear, simple consequences.
State the expectation and walk away rather than over-engage.
4. Enjoy him again. Find the qualities you appreciate about him. List them. Remember them. Review them. Give thanks for them even in the hard times.
5. Find or recall something you enjoy doing together. Plan to do this regularly. Strengthen the loving, affectionate mother-child bond. He will know whether you feel and express love for him.
6. Encourage his friendships with polite, considerate friends who know how to play or spend time apart from electronic entertainment. Supervise this play for success when needed.
7. Teach social understanding as if you are a guide or coach, rather than an adversary.
8. Provide opportunities for manners throughout the day (waiting for food with hands in lap, waiting for others to brush teeth, patting the cat softly, reaching for an object slowly, asking for an item at the table rather than grabbing).
9. Teach from Myself & Others: Lessons in Social Understanding, Habits, and Manners. Teach Books One and Two with younger children or Books Three and Four for older children.
10. Help him build and enjoy healthy, loving, caring human relationships even if with the elderly or with younger children, if not with peers.
All of this can work together for his good and for the good of the family. We include additional tips and strategies throughout our SC Curriculum programs and in our SC Curriculum Manuals.