Joint Attention

What is joint attention?

Joint attention is a behavior where and infant/child shows enjoyment in sharing an object or event with another by looking back and forth between the two.

Why is joint attention important?

Research indicates that joint attention is important for the development of other, later-emerging, skills, such as more complex expressive language, symbolic play, and theory of mind. Children with disabilities often prefer to be by themselves, isolated from others. They do not understand the joy of sharing an experience with another person. Because social interaction/communication is a reciprocal, dynamic relationship based on mutual understanding, enjoyment, and benefit, children with difficulties in joint attention will have difficulties with social interactions.  Joint attention allows you and your child to connect more easily and share the moment.

Activities to facilitate joint attention:

1. Point to a toy that your child likes and say “look”.  Gently turn his/her head toward the toy.  When he/she looks at it, play with the toy or give it to him/her. 

2. Tell your child “look at me”, and then tap his/her face and then your face.
After you have given this verbal cue, give your child time to respond.

3. Blow up a balloon or bubbles.  Don¹t tie the balloon, say look and when he/she does, release the balloon.

4. Take turns with a cause and effect toy.  Hold the toy near you.  Say, “my turn”, and push a button.  Push the toy to your child and tell him/her, “your turn”.

5. Offer a little bit…then wait.  Instead of giving your child a big piece of apple or a full cup of juice, give them a little bit, then wait for them to “ask” for more by looking at you and saying or gesturing “more”.


-Belen Macias, MS, CCC-SLP


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