Managing Attention

Strategies that help children with autism learn these skills:

Click on the links for a game that can help a child learn the skill or more information on the strategies suggested:


Child will become more aware of others and what others are doing

  • Using little predictable routines so as to become more predictable (Click, Click, Click Game)
  • Becoming the source of things that the child enjoys
  • Exaggerating facial expressions
  • Using an expressive voice
  • Interrupting routines
  • Imitating the child (Drum Imitation Game)
  • Expectantly waiting for a response after trying to interact with the child
  • Using visual rather than verbal communication (pictures, demonstrations, gestures)
  • Using music including a more melodic voice, funny and repetitive sounds

Additional Links: Come Play With Me

Becoming interested in playful social interaction

    • Being playful while interactive
    • Talking less and using predictable language
    • Demonstrating simple (not too many steps) playful routines
    • Being observant and noting what the child enjoys and using this information
    • Adding an enjoyable sensory experiences to play (i.e. swinging, jumping, tickling, water play)

Shifting attention rapidly between people, activities and toys

    • slowing down the routine so that it it not so rapid and then gradually speeding up as the child can successfully shift attention
    • using an indrawn breath, a more emotional voice, or an exaggerated facial expression to draw child's eyes to your face
    • playing games where looking at someone or listening to someone is part of the game
    • reducing or eliminating competing distractions (i.e. turn off television, remove toys that are not being used in the game, reduce the number of people in the room)

Paying attention when routines change

    • Providing information about when routines will change including visual schedules, transition songs (e.g. Clean up songs)
    • Making clear endings to one game or activity and then a clear beginning to the next activity (e.g. saying "All done ______, Time for ______" with each activity having a name that is always the same)

Paying attention when the topic is not a preferred topic or the game is not a preferred game

    • Start to teach a child to pay attention by interacting with the child using preferred topics or playing a preferred game
    • Integrate new topics or games gradually but keep some aspects or elements of the preferred topic or game (e.g.
    • Let the child know how long you will be talking about a non-preferred topic or playing a non-preferred game

Noticing what a play partner is looking at, doing, feeling, and trying to accomplish

    • play games where noticing is part of the game and required to accomplish the goals of the game
    • pre-teach language skills needed to understand what others are doing, feeling, or trying to accomplish
    • model noticing what others are looking at, doing, feeling and trying to accomplish and model this in such a way that the child can understand that is what you are doing

Medical Disclaimer Autism Games © By Tahirih Bushey 10.29.2010