Attention and Listening

A child with attention and listening difficulties will find it hard to focus their attention on tasks, at the level and amount of time expected for their age.

Speech and language therapists offer support to children and young people from birth to 18 years where communication difficulties are impacting on their ability to fully participate in daily life.

How can I tell my child has attention and listening difficulties?

There are a number of ways you may notice your child has difficulty with their attention and listening. Look out for:

  • Difficulties in focusing on activities, especially activities directed by others (for example, listening to a story, taking part in a group game) in noisy and/or unfamiliar environments
  • The child not appearing to listen
  • Having to repeat instructions several times
  • The child moving quickly or flitting between different tasks when playing, rather than settling on one task for a period of time
  • The child being highly distracted and turning at every noise

Guidance and helpful information

If you think your child has difficulties with attention and listening, please use the toolkits below and look at the web links to the right.


It’s important to rule out any hearing difficulties – your health visitor or GP can refer your child for a hearing assessment if you are worried or have a concern. It can be difficult to establish if some behaviour is due to difficulties with attention or understanding.

How we can help

Activities we use may include:

  • Using visual checklists and timetables to help the child know what is expected of them
  • Using timers to help the child know how long they need to focus for
  • Gradually building up the length of time the child can concentrate for, with regular breaks
  • Practising careful listening in games and activities

What happens next?

If you think your child has difficulties with speech, language or communication, please initially use the toolkits above and look at the web links to the right. These toolkits will give you ideas to support and encourage your child’s development.

If you continue to have concerns, please discuss these with your health visitor, early years practitioner, your child’s teacher or GP.