Attention and Listening

Good attention and listening skills are how we learn to speak language and learn in the classroom.

It is not the same as just listening to sounds, it means you need to pay attention.

It requires concentration and the ability to ignore information that we do not need.

Listening involves hearing and remembering sounds and finding the information you need to understand (auditory processing).


What are good attention and listening behaviours?

  • Good sitting, looking and listening
  • Looking, focusing and paying attention to tasks
  • Ignoring unwanted noise
  • The ability to control your emotions, to be calm and alert, and ready to learn
  • Paying attention to the person that is talking, by looking, talking and taking turns

What are the signs that a child or young person has attention and listening difficulties?

  • They may have difficulty staying seated or looking in the direction of the speaker
  • They may be easily distracted by the place they are in or their own thoughts
  • They may frequently interrupt other people and be unable to take their turn
  • They may need a high amount of repetition or help to concentrate
  • They may need instructions to be broken down, as they are unable to follow a single set of instructions
  • They may require lots of movement or learning breaks as they cannot pay attention for very long

How do we support children and young people’s attention and listening?

  • Use the names of children or young people to gain their attention straight away
  • Make sure you speak loudly enough to gain attention of the child or young person
  • Make sure that there are visual supports in order to help them to listen and learn, such as making gestures, pointing, signs (if you know them), photos and objects to help them understand the language you are using
  • Keep your language short and simple, to ensure it is understandable and involves the smallest amount of listening
  • Tell them how well they are doing to help them feel good about the task
  • Ask the child to repeat what they have heard in their own words
  • Use calming activities such as Brain Gym to support their learning
  • Lessons should include questions, repetition and a model of how they should behave
  • Make sure lessons are taught using clear and simple language and visual supports to make sure they have the best chance of learning
  • Ensure appropriate consideration has been given to the environment i.e. reduction of background noise, closed blinds etc.
  • Provide timeframes for how long you are expecting a child or young person to listen by providing a clear start and end points to the task


Auditory Processing Skills

Basic strategies to support Attention & Listening

Characteristics of Problematic Attention and Listening


School aged children

Supporting attention in the home

Listening: awareness of sounds (Cambridgeshire NHS)

Web Pages with Further Attention and Listening Resources