Attention-training with children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds in Cape Town
Objective: Attention is a core process underlying competence in higher-order cognitive abilities. Previous research suggests that healthy children from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds perform poorly, relative to those from higher SES backgrounds, on tasks assessing attentional abilities. In this pilot study, we investigated the effects of an attention-training intervention on task performance in low-SES children.
Method: We conducted a quasi-controlled trial with stratified randomisation, using a pre-test/ post-test design. Participants were low-SES children aged 7–13 years. Each was assigned to either an intervention group, a play control group, or a test-only control group (n = 5 per group). We implemented a ten-week manualised cognitive rehabilitation program, Pay Attention!, administering standardised tests of attention, working memory, and inhibition before and after the intervention. Between- and within-group analyses and Reliable Change Index statistics evaluated differences in scores from pre- to post-intervention.
Results: Analyses detected no notable between-group differences at either pre- or post-intervention testing. However, on tests of selective attention, attentional control, and inhibition, there were significant within-group and positive individual reliable changes exclusive to the intervention-group participants.
Conclusions: Given the variability in our findings, more research needs be conducted with a larger sample to determine, with greater rigour, the efficacy of the intervention within samples of healthy children from low-SES backgrounds.