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OHOA Module: Building Trusted Relationships and Positive Self-Image

Learning Activity 4: Joint Attention and Reaching Out

Time to complete: 2 hours

Joint attention occurs when two people are attending to the same thing or experiencing the same thing, while simultaneously thinking about it in the same way. They are on the same wavelength. Compare this to the concept of affirmation, which you were introduced to in Learning Activity 1. Affirmation is about perceiving. When you affirm someone, you let her know that you perceived (e.g., saw, heard, or felt) what she just did. In contrast, joint attention is about knowing. Knowing in your minds that you are both attending to the same thing. Through repeated affirmations with a student, you get to joint attention.


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Joint attention (both persons attend to the same thing and to each other at the same time) lets the intervener and the student know what the other is experiencing and feeling. This gives them both a chance to develop a better understanding of their own selves and each other, to develop communication, and to build the trust the student needs to reach out and have an expanded world.