Anna is a girl with Down’s syndrome who needs support to improve facial tone and strength for more precise articulation. Within 10-minutes of doing oral-motor exercises, I noticed Anna’s attention was starting to fade. She would look around the room, wiggle in her seat and need a couple prompts to do the exercises. Before long, this “shifty” attention turned into what most adults call “behaviors”. Rather than hand items back to me, she tossed them on the floor and stomped her foot on them and ignored all my requests. We were definitely headed away from learning.
Usually I incorporate movement at the initial signs of distraction, but today I wanted to get a baseline – 10 minutes before breakdown. To get Anna actively engaged again, we stood up and wiggled our bodies until we both were giggling. Then we rocked our heads in different directions for greater vestibular input and regulated attention. After moving for under five minutes, Anna was smiling, had perked up, and was showing interest in me once again. I returned to the four-foot carpeted block we had been sitting on while Anna attempted jumping up to the top instead of taking the two stair steps. She missed and was ready to take the steps when I saw this as an opportunity for functional whole body movement, which always improves attention.
Anna successfully surmounted her obstacle after four tries, following encouragement to take a running start. Giving her time to move her body and try something different solved our “problem” of poor attention. Both of us got a natural energy boost, connected through body-play, laughter and smiles and had clear brains for learning.
Taking a movement break when you see “behaviors” is always a good idea. Behaviors send the message that something about the situation is not working and you can accomplish more by taking a break, which clears your brain and improves your mood. When you have a clear brain when learning, it requires less practice to obtain a new skill. Keep this concept in mind – set the brain up for success by moving the body and having fun – this will help your child catch up and enjoy the process of learning!