Joint Attention

Joint Attention

Joint attention is an important communication skills. It's the ability to have a shared experience about an event, object, or situation. This does not require specific language skills, which may or not be present, it's about the cognitive awareness that you are SHARING the experience with another person or people. The typical example is when a student may look at the object and then very purposefully look at the communication partner as if to say "look at that!" or "That was so funny!" or even "don't do that".

Note that the student may have advanced skills in non-communication tasks, and not show joint attention. For example, a person with autism could potentially be able to do advanced calculus, but may not yet share this interest with others purposefully. Keep in mind that student with vision and hearing impairments WILL NOT typically look or turn to sound if their loss is significant or if they can't move their body in a certain way. Blind students may turn their head AWAY from the object, while touching your hand excitedly. If a student can't see what is directly in front of his or her, but can see from the side, it may SEEM s if he or she is not looking away, when really he or she has his head turned away so that you CAN be seen out of the corner of the eye. THIS IS JUST AS VALID AN INDICATION THAT THE STUDENT HAS JOINT ATTENTION. It's the cognitive skill, not the specific method that is looked for.

The following video shows a young woman demonstrating joint attention with me about a toy truck.

Example of an IFSP goal for a infant with Deaf-Blindness incorporating partial participation:

Sally will show and understanding of join attention by petting her cat, Muffins, (a preferred activity) and then looking at an adult happily when the cat rolls over.

Example of an IEP goal using partial participation: Sally will Show an understanding of joint attention by handing the object cue for "finished" to her teacher when she is finished with her silent reading.

Example of a transition goal:

Note in the first video that, after much prompting and instruction, this student demonstrates joint attention for the first time! Look for it at the end of the movie. She has enough vision that she uses eye gaze and a head turn to signal that this is a SHARED moment. Note that this action is motorically difficult for her.

In the second video we see a young man who was born totally Deaf and Blind. He is very intelligent and is taking in my words (in this case in Tactile Sign Language). Notice that he doesn't look toward me or follow me with his eyes because he has always been blind. I know that he is sharing the moment with me, however, because he got still, sat up a bit and rocked his head back and fourth, which is his "I'm chatting" look.