Strategies for Strengthening Your Child’s Production Controls of Attention
The production controls of attention regulate the quality and efficiency of our output – the creations, activities, and behaviors that we produce. They promote good judgment, effective problem solving, and sound decision making. Based on the work of learning specialist, Mel Levine, MD, I will describe four common forms of production control and provide strategies for strengthening these controls at home.
Previewing control enables us to look ahead and foresee an outcome, a likely result of something we’re about to do or attempt.
Options control entails thinking about choices rather than doing the first thing that comes to mind.
Pacing control regulates output speed, so actions are not too fast or too slow.
Quality control involves monitoring quality of output, so improvements can be made. In performing a task or trying to behave in a certain way, it is important to know how we are doing (self-monitoring).
Strategies for Parents:
*To help develop previewing skills, parents can encourage their kids to come up with a plan before writing a report, starting a project, or drawing a picture.
Children need to preview consciously, to visualize and describe what the outcome or result is likely or desired to be.
*It is often helpful to stress previewing in a child’s area of talent. For example, a child who is good at carpentry might be asked to draw a rough sketch of what the final product will look like prior to starting the actual work. Parents should spend time discussing this sketch and helping the child think through possible revisions in advance.
*Kids can be helped with previewing as part of their summer reading. Before reading a book, they should try to preview what its content is going to be based on the book’s title.
*To work on the aspects of options control, parents can ask questions like: “What are the different ways we might do this? What do you think is probably the best way? What would be the worst way to go about this?” This sort of reviewing of alternative strategies can occur before preparing a report or studying for a test. Such techniques can also help with overall problem-solving skills.
*The same kind of help can be related to behavioral and social planning (e.g., “What’s the best thing to do about that girl who called you a bad name in school today? What are some other things you could consider doing? What would work best? Which of these possibilities is a bad idea?”).
*To help children with improper pacing, parents should discourage frenetic work patterns by avoiding statements such as: “You can watch television when you finish your work.” Offers of this kind may inadvertently encourage children to work as quickly and carelessly as possible.
*It can help a child’s pacing to set aside a certain amount of time each evening (or each weekday evening) for cognitive work. The whole family should be engaged in such activities. There is then no incentive to finish quickly, since it will only mean having to find some other brainwork to do.
*Kids who need specific help with self-monitoring and proofreading (quality control) can benefit from looking for discrepancies or errors in their work or in the work of others. They should be required to proofread their own work but only after an interval of hours or days has passed since the work was completed. It is very tedious for anyone to correct something immediately after completing it.
Dr. Susan E. Cozolino is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who has a private practice in Beverly Hills. She specializes in the assessment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Learning Disabilities in students ages 6 & up. Dr. Cozolino helps students understand and address learning challenges by conducting thorough assessments, creating individualized learning plans, and recommending and advocating for educational services, modifications and accommodations. Dr. Cozolino is also an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.