The origins of the approach are in the idea that successful communication is dynamic, engaging and joyful. People learn best when they are filled with enthusiasm, motivation and creativity. The Attention Autism approach should provide children with a learning experience that they want to communicate about. You will see Attention Autism practice taking place in all of our classrooms across school. This will be led by teachers and support staff with the whole class or smaller groups of pupils. For many of our children this is a target / strategy referenced on Speech and Language care plans.
The Aims of Attention Autism:
As well as the ultimate goal of developing natural and spontaneous communication skills in children with autism, there are several other aims that Attention Autism strives to achieve. These include:
- To engage attention.
- To improve joint attention.
- To develop shared enjoyment in group activities.
- To increase attention in adult-led activities.
- To encourage spontaneous interaction in a natural group setting.
- To increase non-verbal and verbal communication through commentary.
- To build a wealth and depth of vocabulary.
- Most importantly, to have fun!
The Stages of Attention Autism:
The Attention Autism programme is split into a series of stages. A stage is only introduced when a child is ready. You can spend as much time on each stage as you feel is required for your group of children.
Stage 1: The Bucket to Focus Attention
The first stage of Attention Autism involves filling a bucket with visually engaging toys that aim to help children learn how to focus their attention. The toys will be presented to the group by an adult leader, such as teacher, learning practitioner, occupational therapist or parent. The adult leader will make simple comments about each toy to help introduce them to the children and expand their vocabulary.
Aim to carry out this session 4 or 5 times a week. Start by showing the toys in the bucket for a minute. If everyone can pay attention for a whole minute, then add an additional minute. When everyone in the group can pay attention for a whole five minutes, you are ready to move on to stage 2.
Stage 2: The Attention Builder
This stage involves introducing the group to highly appealing and visually stimulating activities. This stage aims to build and sustain attention for a longer period of time.
Attention autism ideas for activities we demonstrate during stage 2 include:
- Flour castles - these can be built like sandcastles. You will need flour, a bowl and any other molds you wish to make a castle out of.
- Erupting volcano activity - this is a classic science experiment, that is sure to be visually engaging.
- Fishbowl foam - fill a fishbowl with shaving foam and water, slowly drop different coloured food dye in and get children to describe the colours and speeds at which they see it fall.
Stage 3: The Interactive Game - Turn-Taking and Shifting Attention
The adult leader will demonstrate a simple engaging activity and invite children up one at a time to have a turn. This may be the same activity from stage 2 or something new to introduce your group to.
This will help children to learn how to shift their attention to their own participation and then back to the rest of the group. This will also teach them about the importance of sharing, turn-taking and waiting.
Stage 4: Individual Activity - Focus Shift and Re-engage Attention:
In the final stage of Attention Autism, the adult leader will demonstrate a simple creative task and then ask each child will be asked to copy it. This may include building a pattern with different coloured blocks.
Children will focus their attention as part of a group to watch the demonstration, the shift their attention to work on their individual task, and then finally shift their attention back to the group to show their completed task. This stage also aims to build independent working skills and following instruction skills.