Attention Autism is an intervention model designed by Gina Davies, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist. It aims to develop natural and spontaneous communication through the use of visually based and highly motivating activities. Gina’s primary objective is that the sessions are fun and “offer an irresistible invitation to learn”!
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.
It is essential to attend training in the Attention Autism model before incorporating it in your classroom practice. Gina Davies has trained staff in Middletown Centre for Autism to deliver training. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Further information can also be accessed at these links:
Attention Autism Post-Primary Model
Gina Davies and Middletown Centre for Autism have developed a model of Attention Autism which is appropriate for post-primary students. This is one of the main interventions used by the Centre in developing social skills in a post-primary setting.
Aims of the Post-Primary Model
- To develop social and friendship skills in a natural group setting.
- To develop social and friendship skills through highly motivating activities.
- To develop skills in working with others.
- To follow an adult lead.
- To follow instructions.
- To develop problem solving skills.
- To learn coping skills.
- To improve emotional self-regulation.
- To listen to others and to comment appropriately.
- To build positive memories and shared experiences with others.
The format of the post-primary group sessions and the nature of the activities are similar to the primary Attention Autism groups but with some adaptations to ensure it is age appropriate:
- Each session commences with a ‘Getting in the zone’ activity to facilitate sensory and emotional regulation. This ensures participants are in the optimal state for engagement.
- A tool box is used instead of a bucket.
- The objects contained within the tool box are selected for a post-primary group e.g. remote control cars, remote control helicopter.
- There is an emphasis on working with partners and as part of a team.
- Opportunities are given for problem solving and sharing ideas.
The groups work through a 3-term model which is designed around a model of developmental skill progression, moving from taking an adult lead to more independent problem solving with others in the group.
It is again essential to receive training in this model before applying it within schools. Training and support in setting up these groups is offered by Middletown Centre for Autism in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Please contact email@example.com for further information.