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Joint Attention

What is joint attention and why is it important?

Joint attention is a shared focus between you and your child. For example, if a plane flies by and you point to the sky while saying, “look a plane,” your child looks up to the sky and also looks at the plane. You are both focusing on the same thing, the plane.

The child may or may not have expressive language at this point, but the key to joint attention is that a child and the adult have a shared focus on the same object and are aware of the other’s participation. Joint attention emerges around 9 months, but usually develops around 18 months of age.

As another example, if your child is playing with a toy train, looks up at you, and then back at the train to draw your attention/focus to it. The intention here is the child showing you something they’re interested in.

This is very important for building language because it is the first stage of understanding that language is shared between two or more people and can be used to express yourself. Eventually, joint attention will help with play, interacting with others, conversation and social skills.


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