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Attention Training Games

Here are five simple games you can play with your child to build visual- and auditory-attention skills.

The games are designed to improve your child's attentional processes by being more specific than other attentional tasks. They may also reveal information that could be helpful in other situations, such as your child's classroom. However, these games are not intended to provide a "treatment program." Attentional disorders are far too complex to be addressed by game-like tools.

What You Need

  • Three decks of ordinary playing cards
  • A stopwatch
  • A timer
  • A dual-cassette tape recorder (or two recorders)
  • Two blank audiocassette tapes
  • Six 3 x 5 index cards
Print out: Recording sheets, progress charts, and directions

Rules to Play By:

  • First, try playing these games with another adult. This way, you will be comfortable with the rules and scoring when you play them with your child.
  • Not all kids will be able to do all the games. There's no specific age-range for these games. Play only those games that are developmentally appropriate for your child.
  • Let your child be the guide. Don't force him to continue if the task is too difficult. Play only those games that your child easily understands and is willing to play.
  • Praise your child's participation and improvements. Even though his performance may be inconsistent, always tell him when he has done better. For example, "You did much better on that game than the last time we played it." Avoid giving negative comments and keep it fun.
  • If you have ADHD or find yourself confused by, or having difficulty with, some of the game formats, do not play these games with your child. You don't want him to have distorted feedback on his performance because of your own errors. Find someone who doesn't have ADHD to play with your child, like his teacher, school guidance counselor, or a family friend.
  • Be sure to record your child's performance and then come again to see how your child improves.

To increase the difficulty level, you can:
1. Increase the duration of the game from one minute to two minutes. A maximum of five minutes should be imposed on all games.
2. Play an additional tape in the background of noise from either a typical classroom or a playground.

Focused Attention

Visual

1. Take three decks of cards, remove the jokers, and shuffle them.
2. Deal single cards, piling them in a stack face up so that your child simply has to focus on the top of the stack to name the color.
3. Place the cards at a rate of one per second (for those needing to practice their timing in putting the cards down, remember the traditional way of counting: One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, etc.).
4. Instruct your child to make a mark in the appropriate place on the recording sheet as soon as a red card comes up.

5. Set the timer for one minute and stop when the bell rings.
6. To figure out the number of correct responses go back through the cards and count the total number of red cards presented until the timer rang. Write the score on the recording sheet. To calculate the percentage correct, divide the number of red cards marked by the total number of red cards presented. Mark it on the performance record.

Auditory

1. Pre-record for exactly one minute a random series of the words "red" and "black" on the tape. To do this, shuffle the three decks and read the color of the cards as you put them down, again at the rate of one per second.
2. Now play this recording to your child and instruct him to put a mark on the recording sheet every time he hears the word "red."
3. Again, you can then count the total number of correct picks (subtract errors for those marked incorrectly) by knowing how many times you said the word "red" on the tape. Calculate a percentage of correct responses.
It should be obvious that this first game is very easy and few children should have trouble with it. However, children with severe attentional impairments may find this game difficult, and others may be challenged when the length of the game is increased.

Sustained Attention Visual

1. Use three decks of well-shuffled cards.
2. Tell your child to mark the recording sheet each time she sees a red card that comes right after a black card.
3. Place the cards face up in a pile as you deal them at the rate of one per second for one minute.
4. Count the number of errors and subtract this number from the total marks to get the number correct. You can also calculate a percentage.

Auditory

1. Make a tape similar to (but different from) the one used in Focused Attention (Auditory) Game, since your child may be familiar with that first tape.
2. For one minute, play the tape for your child.
3. Tell your child to mark the recording sheet every time she hears the word "red" following, or coming right after, the word "black."
4. Subtract errors from the total marks to get the number correct and the percentage of correct responses over the one-minute period.



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