Zoning Out in Class

Develop Attention Skills

Use Teacher’s Cues

Your child may notice that her attention drifts in class. She was focusing one minute, then the next minute she is thinking of her upcoming game or outing with her friend. As a result, she misses important pieces of information during class time and isn’t prepared for homework or tests.

Most high school children occasionally zone out in class because they are either tired or bored. But when your child chronically daydreams, this could indicate she is struggling with attention skills.

Attention is one of our executive functions: the set of skills that let us execute daily tasks.

Solution: Ask the teacher for support

Many teachers are happy to accommodate a request for support for attention problems. So it’s important to ask for it. A teacher can support your child’s attention problem in two ways:

  • Silently cueing your child. A teacher can discreetly walk past your child’s desk and lightly touch it when she notices your child’s attention is wandering.
  • Explicitly stating to the whole class when information is especially important. Most teachers do this automatically — they say something like, “Listen up, everyone, this part is important!”

Don’t do this: Ask your child if she is paying attention in class.

Try this instead: Ask the child to ask the teacher for the support she needs.

Remember: Your child’s attention wanders because her attentional control is weak. But she may also show a “hyper-focusing” tendency, indicating an ability to sustain attention when she is interested. She just needs some help with control.

It is perfectly normal for children to experience some degree of difficulty and frustration as they learn to execute new tasks. Toddlers can tantrum, school-aged children can yell and argue, and teenagers can ignore instructions. When deciding if executive function weaknesses require intervention, ask yourself: “How frequently is this occurring? How intense is the experience/significant the impact?” If your answer to these questions is “too much,” “too often,” “I don’t know what to do to change this,” or “it’s only getting worse,” you may benefit from a face-to-face conversation to help problem-solve your concern. Effective problem solving will help you clearly identify the problem, goal, steps it will take to achieve your goal, possible barriers, and available supports.

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What to Expect

You and your child or adolescent will meet with a pediatric neuropsychologist for approximately one hour. 

Teenage boy smiling

Executive Function Interventions

These interventions aim to create new habits that can sidestep or override a child’s cognitive challenges.

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