I had done some work at a typical school and was amazed at how difficult it was for the entire class to pay attention for more than a few minutes (if so long!) I had a conversation with the principal as well and we were trying to figure out the reasons for this: was it because of all the electronics children are now using instead of going outside? Parents spending less time with their children? Foods? There are too many variables to pinpoint any one cause.
Nevertheless, there IS a difference between typical inattention and something more serious. While Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) seems to be a buzz-word these days, there are several other causes of a child's inability to focus - environmental factors, sleep, diet, sensory processing issues, hearing issues, cognitive issues, to name a few. Here's a very quick and non-exhaustive guide to know if your child's attention problems may be atypical and require further investigation:
1. For school-aged children, inability to attend to a task or activity for longer than 5-10 minutes (TV/tablets/electronic games are not applicable here).
2. The child may "zone out" or daydream more than other children.
3. The child may be disorganised - making lots of mistakes, forgetting things, having trouble finishing school work or tasks, and difficulty following directions.
4. The child may fidget frequently - constantly on the go, playing with something in the hands, mouthing objects (including chewing clothes or other inappropriate items).
5. The child appears to not hear you when you talk, even though you know there are no underlying hearing issues.
6. Difficulty following directions with multiple steps (including routines such as getting ready for school).
So as you can see, attention problems have a wide range of causes and symptoms. If you think your child may be having any difficulty, it's worth finding out more information so that you can take steps to improve it.