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Parents and teachers, listen up. There’s a new study out with important considerations for children: Kids who show signs of attention difficulties in kindergarten are 40 percent less likely than their peers to graduate from high school down the road.

That’s a big number and a big outcome. We’re not even talking about kids with an ADHD diagnosis — that statistic applies to any kid who has difficulty paying attention.

So what can we do?

It comes down to awareness and early intervention.

In preschool, we don’t expect kids to be able to focus long, but a few minutes at a time shouldn’t be out of reach. By kindergarten, kids should be able to focus for several minutes. If you notice a difference between your child and other children of the same age, consider having your child evaluated for attention problems.

Attention span can be improved. Therapy and medication — under close supervision by a mental health specialist — have been shown to help even preschool aged children who have severe attention difficulties.

Here’s what one researcher has to say:

“We are learning that student success requires a more comprehensive approach, one that incorporates not only academic skills but also social, self-regulatory and attention skills. If we neglect any of these areas, the child’s development lags. If we attend to these areas, a child’s success may reinforce itself with positive feedback loops.”

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

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