Attention Milestones

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Attention Milestones

Introduction

Attention can be described as the conscious awareness of selected sensory perceptions and internal cognitive processes. This is a rather abstract definition and deserves further explanation. We only become fully aware of something when it enters our minds. It only enters our minds as a result of unconscious evaluative decision-making processes. These processes continually sort and sift through all the incoming sensory data that we receive and prioritise the most important 'bits' for us. What is considered important will depend on a number of factors such as the context i.e. what we are doing and where we are; the relevance to what is already gaining our attention and particularly anything that could potentially cause us harm.

All these sensory and attentional processes are under developed at birth and take about seven years to mature to adult level. Thus a young child's control over the 'target' of their attention and the ability to remain focussed and concentrate follow a developmental pathway. For each individual the speed of this development will vary and therefore the milestones given below should only used as a rough guide.

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Development of Attention

12 months

Fleeting attention
Attends to dominant stimulus in room

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24 months

Rigid attention
Attends to the own preferred stimulus

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36 months

Single channelled attention
Can follow adult direction but needs to stop own activity

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48 months

Focussing attention
Can switch attention between tasks but needs to attend completely to each

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5 years

Two channelled attention
The auditory and visual inputs are integrated sufficiently to enable child to do one task and understand an instruction.

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6 years

Integrated attention
Complete integration of auditory and visual inputs so that two channelled attention is possible in a variety of contexts.

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7 years and older

Children with immature attention skills beyond the age of 7 years should be identified by their schools and are likely to benefit from additional strategies to manage and support their learning needs.

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You may also find the following pages useful:

Expressive Language Milestones

Receptive Language Milestones

Social Interaction and Play Milestones

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All children develop at different rates and so reaching milestones slower or faster than peers does not necessarily mean that there is a concern.

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