Supporting Learning - Attention Autism
Attention Autism is a learning approach created by speech and language therapist Gina Davies, that aims to develop natural and spontaneous communication skills in Autistic children through the use of visually based and highly motivating activities. It is a popular approach and is widely used in schools.
The Attention Autism approach aims to provide children with a learning experience that they want to communicate about.
Aims of Attention Autism
- 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 commenting
- To build a wealth and depth of vocabulary
- To have fun!
Stages of Attention Autism
The Attention Autism programme progresses through a series of stages, building on each skill level. Each new stage is introduced when the group is ready to expand attention skills.
Stage 1: The Bucket to Focus Attention
A bucket is filled with visually engaging objects and toys, aiming to gain the shared attention of the group. The adult leader shows each item to the group and uses simple repetitive vocabulary to comment on the various objects.
Stage 2: The Attention Builder
Visually stimulating activities are shown to the group by the adult leader, aiming to sustain attention for a longer period. The activities are fun, visually engaging and can often involve delightful mess!
Stage 3: Turn taking & Re-engaging Attention
The adult leader demonstrates a simple activity, often modelled with another adult in the group. Some children are then invited to have a turn but only if they are comfortable to do so. Not every child in the group will get a turn, which then teaches important emotional regulation skills, as well as the essential skills of waiting, turn-taking and learning through modelling.
Stage 4: Shifting & Re-engaging Attention
Stage 4 aims to develop the skill of engaging and shifting attention. The adult leader demonstrates a simple creative task, and then gives each child an individual kit to copy the task. The children take their kits to a table, complete the task independently, and then everyone returns to the group to show their completed tasks.
More complex skills can be introduced as confidence and social skills develop e.g. sharing materials, working with a partner, problem solving.
Attention Autism principles can then be generalised to curriculum activities (e.g. literacy and numeracy) to facilitate learning and skill development.