Assessment Tools for Attention

Assessment Tools for Attention

by admin
April 13, 2021

Attention is at the core of many activities that are essential for a child’s development. Therefore, measuring attention is vital and can predict academic success among students in educational settings and life. Attention includes several components, one of which is attention span, which most of us are familiar with. Attention span is an individual’s ability to maintain focus and alertness for a sustained period. Another definition of attention span “refers to an individual’s ability to attend to a stimulus or object over a sustained period. This ability is also known as sustained attention or vigilance.” Sustained attention requires motivation and persistence. Consequently, individuals with short attention spans may appear to give insufficient effort to tasks or lack motivation. The following article will outline some of the assessment tools used to measure attention and attention span. 

How is Attention Defined?

We have already defined attention span; however, there are other components of attention. These components are essential when it comes to measuring an individual’s ability to pay attention. Attention is composed of four elements sustained attention, selective attention, divided attention, and alternating attention. Sustained attention is the ability to focus and direct attention to an ongoing task over a sustained period without being distracted. Selective attention is when an individual can select one factor of interest from a range of factors and stimuli to focus on. Divided attention is when we can process two or more characteristics of stimulus at the same time. Divided attention is what has lately been known as the ability to multi-task. In other words, selective attention allows individuals to choose the stimulus that they want to focus on. Lastly, alternating attention is the ability to shift attention from one task to another without losing focus. 

Attention Span Development

Research shows that a child’s attention span develops linearly until the age of four. However, between the ages of four and six, there are massive increases. Moreover, between the ages of seven and eight, sustained attention is stable compared to slightly younger and slightly older children. It is important to note that this is when attention problems such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention hyperactivity disorder are detected (ADHD). Between the ages of nine and eleven, children experience significant improvements in sustained attention. However, these improvements are still less efficient to adult attention spans. To summarize, these findings suggest that attention span develops rapidly between the ages of four to six and, stabilizes between the ages of seven to eight, and gradually improves until the age of 16. By the age of 16, adult-like levels of attention span are achieved.

How is Attention Span Measured? 

Measuring each part of attention can be extremely helpful and offer valuable insights into an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Tests can also help in choosing the right kind of intervention needed to deal with the attention problem. The following section will outline different attention assessments.

Tests of Variable Attention (TOVA)

This is a computerized test that can be used to measure impulsivity, vigilance, and the deterioration of attention over time. This test takes twenty minutes to complete, and it does not require the use of language, right-left discrimination, or letter and number recognition. Tests of variable attention tend to be used to screen for ADHD. Additionally, they are used to monitor the effects of medicine or therapy plans. 

Integrated Visual and Auditory Continuous Performance Test (IVA)

IVA uses a combination of images and sound to assess impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. The test results also provide some insights on consistency, speed, stamina, attention focus, and learning difficulties. Clinicians use this test is used in ADHD evaluations. IVA can be administered to children and adults; however, the minimum age for children is five. Test takers are instructed to click the mouse whenever they see or hear a “1” but not when they see or hear a “2”. 

Continuous Performance Tests (CPTs)

Continuous performance tests are also known as Target Focused Tests, and they are computer-based tasks used to evaluate attention, specifically sustained attention over time. CPTs offer an objective method for assessing attention deficit, which is an advantage over subjective self-assessment techniques such as questionnaires. Continuous performance tests can be used in parallel with individuals’ clinical information to make a diagnosis. 

Connors CPT II Continuous Performance Test II

This test is also a computerized test used with people suspected of having attention deficits. The test is administered in 14 minutes, and upon completion, the results are given immediately. 

Connors Kiddie CPT V.5

The K-CPT is designed for children between ages four to five. The test involves quick flashes of familiar objects to children, and they must respond to them. This test is similar to Conners’ CPT II, but it is adapted to work for children and the younger population. The test takes half the time of Conners’ CPT II, and it uses images and pictures instead of letters. 

Attentional Capacity Test (ACT)

The attentional capacity test was initially designed to evaluate attention in adults. However, with some minor adjustments, it can and is used to assess a child’s selective attention ability. It is important to note that the test was designed to be used by individuals with speech or motor impairment. 


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