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Paying Attention Matters

about-learning-disabilities-two-boys-portraitLots of things make a difference in the lives of young children:

  • nurturing a sense of wonder and curiosity, and providing tools and opportunities to explore the world and build vocabulary and knowledge;
  • mastering foundational skills in reading, writing, and math that open doors to learning and independence throughout the school years;
  • enjoying positive, reciprocal social interactions with peers and developing a sense of confidence and self-worth;


and much more, including the ability to build good study skills, develop memory abilities and on and on.



A newly released study, just published in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, reports that the ability to pay attention and complete tasks (in 4 year olds!) correlates to later success, specifically, with completing college. While the study makes no explicit mention of learning disabilities (LD), we know that students with LD often need to expend such great effort to accomplish tasks that they stop as soon as they can and are susceptible to “giving up” for fear of failure or by virtue of their feeling overwhelmed by the length or complexity of the tasks. Of interest is that study also made no specific mention of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), although the “self-regulation” to which this research refers is a hallmark characteristic of AD/HD.

According to Megan McClelland, an Oregon State University early child development researcher and lead author of the study, "Academic ability carries you a long way, but these other skills are also important. Increasingly, we see that the ability to listen, pay attention, and complete important tasks is crucial for success later in life."

All parents – including those of children who struggle with reading and math (because of dyslexia and/or dyscalculia) – can learn more about fostering these critical non-academic skills in the following LD.org articles:

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