JOINT ATTENTION: What is it and why is it important?

What is joint attention?

When you and your child share focus on the same object, toy, event or conversation topic, this is called joint attention. This early social exchange occurs when you both share interest in the same thing, resulting in an enjoyable and fun interaction. Joint attention occurs most regularly during play, and sets the foundation for your child’s social, language and cognitive development.

Why is joint attention important?

For many of our clients, our first goal may be to develop early joint attention. When your child can shift their attention between you and an object, they are able to connect meaning to your vocabulary and engage in early social communication exchanges. During this exchange, your child attends and connects meaning to the words you are saying, follows your eye gaze, looks at your facial expressions and takes part in early turn taking. This means that joint attention is one of the first steps in developing meaningful communication & interaction.

What do difficulties with joint attention look like?

Difficulties with joint attention might mean that your child:

· Has difficulty following your gaze or looking at you during play

· Prefers to play on their own

· Does not respond or attend to your vocalisations, communication or actions during play

Strategies to assist in developing joint attention:

The first step to developing joint attention with your child is to do lots of play!

· Get down to your child’s level so that you are face to face. Your child is able to look at your facial expressions and follow your eye gaze

· Follow your child’s lead and find toys/activities that are motivating for them

· Be animated and fun. You might make animal noises, use a higher pitch and excited tone to engage your child in what you are doing

· Copy what your child is doing and take turns within play

· Read books together

Rach at SMART Spot.

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