Teaching is hard enough, but when you have a child who has a hard time focusing, it can seem impossible! I’m talking about the type of child who has the uncontrollable need to fidget with something at all times. He/she is easily distracted by the slightest sound or movement. She/he may ask irrelevant questions or blurt out stories and random thoughts. Teaching children like this can really try your patience, but I have found a way.
Fidgety kids can experience poor attention; decreased learning; difficulty finishing tasks and assignments on time; and difficulty finishing every day activities, such as eating a meal. Fidgety kids can also be distracting and irritating to those around them.
Do you want to decrease your child’s fidgeting behaviors? Then follow the following steps:
Let your child know that you wish to speak with him/her. Stand or sit in close proximity to your child, and say his/her name. Repeat his/her name calmly. Use a louder voice if he/she does not respond.
Eliminate distractions. Turn off the television, MP3 player or radio. Ask others to exit the room or move to another area of the room. Escort your child to a quiet, private location if more appropriate.
Maintain eye contact with your fidgeting child when you speak to him/her. Set the standard that whenever you are speaking to him/her, he/she must look you in the eyes as well. Pause the conversation, and calmly say your child’s name if he/she breaks eye contact or looks away.
Make physical contact. Touch your child’s hands if he/she fidgets. Maintain physical contact for a few seconds, and don’t resume speaking until your child stops fidgeting.
Use sound cues. Click your tongue or snap your fingers to reengage your child if he/she becomes distracted. Use sound cues sparingly to maintain novelty and ensure that they grab your child’s attention when used.
Confirm your child’s understanding. Ask your child to tell you what he/she remembers about your conversation. Remind him/her about small details, but make sure that he/she understands the gist of your talk with him/her.
Reiterate anything of importance that your child missed. Repeat the entire conversation again if you feel that your child is going to forget key points as soon as you’re done talking to him/her.
Be patient. Help your child develop healthy communication skills by keeping your cool throughout the interaction. Keep in mind that a child that fidgets should not disrespect you while you are trying to help him/her to try to learn or focus.
Although there is no way to completely do away with fidgeting, one can minimize fidgeting to some extent. Teachers and psychologists are always on the lookout for new ways, to stop kids from fidgeting in class and concentrate on what’s being taught. Some teachers brought in stability balls in their classrooms and had children sit on them instead of chairs during class. They found that this change reduced the amount of fidgeting considerably in class. However, since long-term use of stability balls results in bad posture, the students are made to get up and stretch after every half an hour. This idea has reduced the amount of wiggling and slouching in class, because the child can bounce on the ball, move a little, etc. while sitting on the ball. Providing a stimulating environment for the child will help reduce the amount of fidgeting around. Even holding and squeezing a stress ball during class will help the kids.
Unless fidgeting causes distress to others or turns to agitation, there is no need to worry about it. Fidgeting is not such a bad thing. Help the kids redirect their energies and you will find them responding better to what they are being taught.