The Different Types of Attention Associated With Learning


In order to strengthen the cognitive skills of ADHD using my brain training program, it’s important to understand the different types of attention necessary for learning. For cognitive purposes, the definition of attention is the ability to focus on one thing to the exclusion of others.

First of all, there’s sustained attention. Sustained attention is the ability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. For instance, if Molly is asked to complete a page of math exercises in school, she’ll have to keep her attention on the exercises until they’re finished, whether it takes her five minutes or half an hour. If Molly has ADHD, you know that this can be a problem for her, because her cognitive functions have impaired her ability to maintain sustained attention.

Another type of attention is selective. Selective attention is the ability to filter out environmental factors and focus on just one thing. An example would be a Sam, a boy with ADHD, who’s doing homework at the kitchen table after school. Sam isn’t able to selectively apply his attention to the homework because he can’t filter out what’s going on around him. It doesn’t matter if he’s sitting alone in the kitchen; he can get distracted by anything; the salt and pepper shakers on the table; the clock ticking on the wall; a bird flying past the window. He just can’t maintain selective attention because of the cognitive impairment of ADHD. Divided attention is another type.

Divided attention means the ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. If your child has a cognitive impairment from ADHD, they’re often unable to divide their attention between tasks. Divided attention allows you to perform more than one task at a time. An example of this would be following instructions to make a batch of cookies where you have to divide your attention between reading the recipe and doing other things like measuring and stirring. The cognitive impairments of ADHD can make this type of activity extremely problematic for a child.

In order to find out what types of attention are affected in a child with ADHD, I always perform cognitive testing as the first part of my program. In that way, I can see what areas of the brain need to be strengthened and tailor my program to those areas. Using my Student Transformation System, we see tremendous increases in the areas of attention that are critical to a child’s ability to perform important cognitive functions.

If you want to find out more about attention and learning, check out my article on "How Auditory Attention Can Impact Learning and ADHD." 

You can also view our webinar on ADHD and Learning! 

This webinar is a replay from our Summer 2012 ADHD Program.  Feel free to reach to Colleen after watching the webinar should you have any further questions.

Colleen Bain is the best-selling author of Overcomers Inc. She writes, trains and consults in advanced brain training for children and their parents, teachers and professionals.  Professionals also look to Colleen for her expert coaching relative to starting and expanding a brain training business.  To find out how Enhanced Learning Skills for Kids can help your child – visit  We work with students in person (NJ areas only) and on line regardless of the program or your location.  

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