A therapist shows a photo to a kid and the following exchange occurs:
Therapist: Where are they A?
Boy A: they are in the restaurant!
T: How did you know that they are in a restaurant?
A: They are eating.
T: But you can also eat in the dining room. So where are they?
A: In the restaurant!
T: So what made you say that they are in the restaurant?
A: They are eating!
You could probably guess the response of the therapist here. The cycle just continues. The next hour, a different kid comes in, looks at the same pictures, and answers the same questions and the same conversation ensues.
I know this very well, because that’s exactly my week. For a week now I have been struggling to get kids to look and see what’s going on in a set of pictures. For a week now, I have been trying to ask them to look at the details and combine all of the information that they see and formulate an idea out of it.
The problem here is that some kids focus only on one aspect of the scene or cannot focus on anything at all. The problem is attention. Apparently this is not only a problem of kids.
Here is the usual scene in most houses today. A couple is in the kitchen. The man is talking to his business partners on the cellphone. They are talking about an important transaction that will ensure his kids future until college. The woman, on the other hand was absorbed in preparing the vegetables for dinner later. Later on, a toddler comes in crying. He wet his pants and his toy ball rolled under the dresser in the living room. He goes to daddy first, but was greeted with a furrowed brow and a frown. Daddy motions to mommy. Mommy gets up, goes to the kitchen counter and hands baby an iPad tablet. Baby stops crying and stares on the screen. Peace reigns in the family.
Here is the typical scene in a restaurant with friends. All friends sit by the window with cellphones, and other gadgets in hand. They are all staring at the screen. Some would occasionally look at their friend to recommend a good website or game he or she discovered. One friend is sobbing at the corner apparently going through some sort of heartbreak. These are friends who went out of their way to hear his or her story. Such nice friends, right?
How about on the streets? Here comes a man in a business suit walking in quick strides in an underground crossway. He is the typical employee, with gadget in hand and earphones on the ear. He is followed by more people like him. Men and women in all sorts of office attires walk to and fro. Some of them rushing towards their businesses for the day. In the middle of the crossway, an old man, apparently one of those paid to maintain the crossway trips and falls over. He lays on the walkway clutching his hips and back in a struggle to get up. He is in pain. The crowd do their best to be on their way. Some walk over him careful not to step over him. Others just pass by on the other side. Life goes on.
Attention is not only something that kids with special needs lack. We lack attention. We are blind to what is happening around – most of the time by our choice. Our attention is often directed elsewhere – usually on ourselves. Our attention is directed on our needs – what is comfortable, what is easy, what is luxurious, and many other things that benefit us. What we do not realize is that usually, in the process, it is at the expense of others. What we do not know is that other people are suffering at the sides, in some small corner or even right under our noses.
Don’t you think something must be done? What should be done?