Attention Interventions: A Case for School-Based Mental Health Supports
The June issue of the medical journal Pediatrics features this study out of UC Davis, which analyzes data on approximately 700 children followed from kindergarten through the end of high school and finds a clear link between attention problems in early grades and lower high school test scores.
Initially, this article made me think of two recent New Yorker articles:
The first, "Don't!," references studies that show kids who are able to delay gratification (the marshmallow test) are more successful as adults. In relation to this new research from UC Davis, I'm wondering how teachers are using exercises in mindfulness to intervene when students are struggling not to act on an impulse or just to slow down and concentrate.
"Brain Gain," the other New Yorker article, discusses neuroenhancing drugs like Ritalin and Adderall and briefly wonders if these drugs might be employed to assist students with fewer educational supports. With evidence like this new study from UC Davis making the case that attention problems as early as kindergarten do lead to later drops in achievement, are we likely to move toward wider acceptance of pharmaceutical interventions in education?
Researchers at UC Davis say the message from their study is for parents and teachers not to ignore signs of inattentiveness in young children. OK, so how do you tell if you've just got a spacey 6-year-old or a kid who's got a significant learning or clinical disorder or might be struggling to pay attention because of poor nutrition, anxiety, or lack of sleep?
School-based mental health professionals, say the researchers, should be a "priority for education policy makers, because classroom interventions, counseling and—in some cases—treatment for psychiatric disorders could mitigate these attention problems." And that means, down the road in high school, students will be better prepared to fulfill their true potential.