Focus/Attention Processing Dysfunction Characteristics

Group assignments. When approaching a math page with many problems on it, put a star by the ones you want him/her to do in that sitting period. If you are only having him/her do some of the problems on the page, not all, then he/she can put a large “X” over the ones he/she doesn’t have to do. This is very satisfying for the child. If you can’t do that, then use construction paper to cover the problems on the bottom half of the page so he/she doesn’t have to see them when he/she is working on the top half.

Focus on study skills. If your child is prone to make mistakes when doing math problems, have him/her mark all the similar problems with red, and do them first. These children don’t transition well, because transitions require more focusing power. Doing all like problems together greatly decreases their need to focus, ensuring few errors on a page.

Take breaks. Many little breaks, versus one big break, helps these children stay on task.

Involve dad. Assign one subject for dad to do with the child in the evening when he is home. Dads often have a different approach to teaching, and the child gets the important one-on-one time that helps him/her be successful. Make sure that dad knows the chunking approach, and how to reduce mundane, repetitive tasks.

Use more right brain strategies, since these employ color, humor, weirdness, etc., to put “Velcro” on the information presented. These children may not necessarily be right brain learners, but the engaging aspects of right brain strategies keeps them interested, and uses less focusing energy. For example, when explaining a new concept or showing how to memorize material, make it fun by having your child help you draw sketches with colored markers.

Adjust your expectations. Your other children may complete tasks without constant reminders, or may actually be able to perform chores without your intervention. If your special needs child could do that, he/she gladly would. He/she wants to please also, but does not have the physical ability to bring this about. He/she is as disappointed in himself/herself as you are. If you have asked him to do three things, and he completed just one, and comes to you, think about saying, “Let’s do the other two tasks together.” This takes such pressure off the child, and models how to get several tasks done in a row, without the feeling of failure.

If your child had a disabled arm or leg, it would be so much easier to adjust your expectations without feeling that you weren’t teaching him/her how to be responsible. This child has as real a disability, but because it is not visible it can so easily be seen as sloppiness, irresponsibility, or laziness. God will help you find the right way to work with your child.


Medications: Even though most home schooling parents are not interested in the use of medications to help their child focus, the discussion is warranted here, since there may be times when it is necessary, even if it is only for a short period of time.

Serotonin boosting medications:

  • Ritalin (short release time)
  • Concerta (sustained release time)
  • Antidepressants (Zoloft, Prozac, Effexor, Wellbutrin, etc.)


  • Adderall (amphetamines)

Dopamine boosting medication:

  • Strattera

All medications come with the risk of side effects, of course. Parents must weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before deciding whether or not to use medications.

Diet: It has been known for over 20 years, first starting with Dr. Feingold and his famous Feingold Diet, that by reducing sugars, colorings and preservatives, children with attention disorders have a much easier time focusing.

Many parents report that when they change the diet of all children at home, that they see a tremendous difference in learning ability and behavior. Some of the diet recommendations that seem to be the most effective include:

Reduce sugar intake. It’s the hidden sugars that get us in trouble, such as the sweeteners in fruit juice, boxed cereals, granola bars, fruit rollups, soft drinks, chocolate milk, pancakes, waffles, etc. Remember that a Snickers candy bar has about 30 grams of carbohydrates, and 35 grams of sugar. When you add the two together, you get 65 grams. Without realizing it, we often feed our children this same amount of sugar by just giving them juice and a bowl of cereal. For many children, consuming this much sugar contributes to their difficulty focusing and controlling their moods.

Increase raw fruit and vegetable intake. As we know from the research in books such as Children with Starving Brains by Dr. Chandless, many children are low in essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. These children either are not getting the daily nutrients they need for their brain to function well, or they are eating the correct foods, but are not absorbing the nutrients found in the food.

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