When you are able to get a child to focus, you are halfway to getting the child to learn. This short article explains the working of External Focus and Internal Processing, and provides suggestions how to apply these for children who struggle with dyslexia as well as for those who do not.
When it comes to getting children to focus on material we want them to learn, it is important to understand there are ways to help — one is external (also called exogenous) and one is internal (also called endogenous).
Those traffic lights we see every day of our lives have a purpose-they teach us to focus and to remember to be safe. Their prevalence indicates the need for learned focus and situational awareness for each of us, whether or not we struggle with dyslexia. Those flashing red lights are an example of what is called exogenous stimulus. This word means much as it sounds - external processing.
Another everyday example of external stimulus is the laser pointer. It is a common tool now in all sorts of teaching and instructional environments because it works to focus the viewer's attention. This focus provides for additional processing of information to be learned. Whether you are pointing out the beginning of an important sentence, or stressing the addition or subtraction symbol in a math problem, the result is the same-increased awareness and enhanced learning. In fact, this is an excellent technique to use with your child when helping them with their studies. You can point to the important parts of any assignment to focus your child's attention and enhance their learning.
When arrows and flashing symbols are employed for teaching purposes, we are helping to support and enhance implicit processing, also referred to as internal processing. Internal processing is the internal learning process that doesn't always require knowledge of what is being learned. We can all probably agree that this is one of the biggest hurdles facing teachers and parents alike. How do we get our children to learn but not make the process too complicated?
Many struggling readers are strong conceptual thinkers, which leads them to fields such as Architecture, Design, Arts, or Entrepreneuring. They think in concepts and associations. By presenting your lesson materials in a logical context, providing many tags and handles to aid internalization, you help your child. It is also beneficial to show them multiple related ideas. Where some excellent readers can visualize an entire concept simply by reading about it, most struggling readers are helped by seeing pictures, or videos, or by simply placing the subject into a context which makes sense to them.
Dynaread uses multiple focus techniques to better help children who struggle with dyslexia. The most obvious is the focus or attention tracker in our Reviews and Words modules. The child is asked to hit the space bar when a small soft snowflake graphics shows up behind the information we need the child to focus on. We even track their responses, providing us with an objective means to verify the child is actually visually focused on the screen area we need them to focus on. This technique grabs the child's attention externally and allow them to automatically focus on the word as they see and hear it. Such focus enhances the processing of the words.
External and internal focus can also be accomplished outside the Dynaread program. One excellent method is by pointing to where you want the child to focus, whether it be on the computer screen, or homework sheet. For example, pointing at a math problem and having them focus on the symbols such as the plus (+) or minus (-) will help them automatically orient to type of math problem. Pointing to the beginning of sentence or paragraph before the child starts to read will automatically orient them to the task of reading. Using such external focus, adding to the success of the child will then help build the internal focus.
Pratt J, Radulescu P, Guo RM, Hommel B (2010) Visuospatial Attention Is Guided by Both the Symbolic Value and the Spatial Proximity of Selected Arrows. Journal of Experimental Psychology, Human Perception and Performance, Volume 36, No 5, pp 1321-1324. DOI: 10.1037/a0019996
Klein, R (2009). On the Control of Attention. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 63, No. 3, 240—252, DOI: 10.1037/a0015807
Our Dynaread team members are required to hold themselves accountable for serving our clients in adherence with our core values...
Dynaread has been developed in the trenches of actual remediation, with our feet firmly planted on the ground. Scientific research is essential (and we consistently use it), but we also understand the realities at home and in school. Not all homes have two parents, not all Dad's or Mom's are always home, there is oftentimes no money, schools lack staff or funding. We listen, we observe, we discuss, and we build the best solutions we can for older (ages 7+) struggling readers.