Technical point

: The reader may wish to consider what would be a minimum set of requirements in order for learning to take place - and for observers to know that that learning had taken place. In the case of a learner who is only aware we might expect severely limited functioning in detection of information through the senses; poor ability to move; severely affected ability to distinguish own actions; poor ability to distinguish events in time and space.

Technical point on 'attention':

We recognise that we could easily have spent time discussing a five stage model of attention. Indeed this helps greatly in structuring methods of intervention. Focussed Attention, the first stage, is the beginning of the capacity to respond to discrete events in visual, hearing, touch etc, stimuli. It is often accompanied by other cognitive problems. The concept of focussed attention is useful, relevant in suggesting intervention techniques such as multiple cueing, using additional sensory modalities as well as suggesting occasions when to cue using new situations.

The second stage, that of Sustained Attention, could in fact have substituted well for our next 'theme', Iocalising. We adopted the alternative terminology for two reasons. One, the nature of the audience to which this book is directed. Second the fact that features of this structure were already in use by some of those working in the field of visual impairment and multiple disability. Sustained attention is characterised by dramatic fluctuations in responses or abilities over seconds. If it is present then the chances are that working memory is not functioning well.

The third stage is that of Selective Attention. At this stage the learner is able to select among a few or indeed several objects, events, people or places - in any combination.

It marks a freedom from distractibility. Again we propose at the relevant section of this book to utilise appropriate methods, most of which were not in any case derived from the theory. They originated at the practical end, and the theory was later constructed around them.

The fourth stage, that of Alternating Attention, represents a serious shift into what we are calling recosning. The learner is now able to shift his focus of attention and move between tasks which have different demands on cognitive abilities. Does the learner tend to perseverate on task, st In everyday life there are very real demands for this kind of control over one's attentional capacities.

The fifth and final stage of the 5 stage model of attention is that known as Divided attention. It is seen when a learner is able to respond simultaneously to several tasks at once. These tasks might even require two different behaviours at one time, or keeping track of two or more different objects or places in the world. Whenever simultaneous demands ate made upon you, a capacity to divide one's attention is required.