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10 Tips to Help You Stay Focused: For Students with Autism and Learning Differences


Executive Function Staying Focused

During the summer, it may become difficult to keep focused on goals because we're distracted by other things, or because the structure of the school year is no longer with us. This is especially true for young adults with Autism and Learning Differences who thrive in a structured environment, but might revert back to old habits once they've left. If there's something specific you need to get accomplished during the summer break, here are some tips to help you maintain your focus and stay on the path to success. 

1. Eat something

To stay focused you need to avoid feeling those hunger pangs that may distract you from the task at hand. A healthy snack will give you more energy and help your mind stay sharp.

2. Unplug

Shut the door and turn off your phone. Also be honest with yourself and decide if your computer or smartphone will distract you or help your creative juices flow. Set aside a time block that is electronics-free.

3. Have a Mantra

Put up a focus statement in a visible area to encourage you to stay focused. Some examples are:

Just do it! - Nike

It always seems impossible until it's done. - Nelson Mandela

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. - Confucious


4. Use Timers

If you are going to be using tech, use it to set timers for a predetermined amount of time and concentrate on your task until the timer goes off. Then, enjoy your break and get back to your work. You will have a great feeling of accomplishment if you work straight through until that timer goes off.

5. Stress Ball or Playdough

Keep a stress ball or a lump of playdough nearby and squeeze it anytime your mind starts to drift. Keeping your fingers busy can help keep your mind thinking. It also helps when the boredom sets in.

6. Seeing is Believing

Envision what you hope to achieve. Imagine yourself at your goal and be proud of what a great job you have accomplished after all the hard work you have put in. Then get back to work invigorated.

7. Get Inspired

Have someone you can call when your motivation is waning. Make sure that person is a positive influence and can get you back to what you need to do. Think of that person as your personal coach to cheer you on and get you going.

8. What to Do?

Create a to-do list every evening before you go to bed. Cross off your accomplishments throughout the day. Having a plan for the day keeps you focused and less overwhelmed than if you just “wing it”.

9. Move It

Take a break from your work and get moving! Take a walk, do stretching exercises, or do some jumping jacks. Get your blood flowing and your mind will thank you for it.

10. Reward Yourself

Break your projects or tasks into smaller achievable parts and reward yourself once they have been completed. Rewards can include renting a favorite movie, buying yourself a latte or playing a game with one of your friends.

There are many ways to get yourself focused and the key is to find out what works for you. If you are not sure, ask your friends, advisors, parents or staff for suggestions. I am sure they will appreciate you asking and it could be quite fun in the process.

Have other ideas? Let's see them in the comments.


Post originally written by Sharona Sommer, April 2010.