Jennifer looks confused or absentminded, when her parents or teacher give instructions. She avoids difficult tasks at home and at school, because she is aware she cannot get the job done in the amount of time given. She feels defeated before she even begins. Jennifer has a problem with slow processing speed.
Children who are slow processers, take longer than their peers to take in information, make sense of it, put it into their memory and retrieve the information from their brain when it’s needed. The major learning avenues that can be slowed down are verbal, visual or motor. Slow processing speed in children can arise in several areas. Testing can pinpoint where the problem lies. Let’s look at each area.
- Verbal processing. Some children demonstrate slow processing of verbal information such as lectures and oral directions. People often talk too fast for them to comprehend. These kids can take a long time to answer verbal questions and cause adults to think they are disrespectful or not very bright. Peers may leave them out of conversations, since these children cannot keep up and don’t contribute much.
- Visual processing. Children can be slow to understand visual information such as reading and math, noticing details in pictures and the environment, and in observing what is happening in a fast game or sport. Social skills may be lacking, because the body language of others is not noticed causing a misunderstanding of their mood.
- Motor processing. These are the slow moving children. They are slow to get out of bed, eat, and get out of the door on time for school. At night, homework takes far too long. Teachers will say these children are the last ones to complete their written assignments. Classmates chose them last to be on sports teams, because their reaction time and running speed are slow.
What to do about Slow Processing Speed
Slow processing speed in children requires understanding and accommodations by parents and teachers in order to avoid low self esteem and underachievement. Below are some rules of thumb for the adults to follow.
At home and school:
- Keep the same routine and time schedule for tasks like doing homework to increase speed.
- Talk more slowly and pause often to give time for processing. Also use simpler words.
- Avoid raising your voice and being critical or you will increases anxiety and shut down thinking.
- Draw attention to the clock and calendar and teach time management.
- When you give verbal explanations, also use pictures and gestures to help with processing.
- Adjust homework assignments to fit a student’s pace.
- Accommodate how you present information and how you expect slow processers to demonstrate their understanding.
- When social problems arise, make it a teaching moment.
When a student exhibits persistent academic, learning, or behavioral problems and traditional approaches have been ineffective, a 504 Plan for special accommodations can be considered. If you think your child might qualify for adjustments to instruction or homework due to slow processing speed, you can check with school personnel.
Diane Daniels, Ed.S, Director of Brain Works, helps children with slow processing speed using brain training that stimulates brain organization and growth of brain pathways. Call 352-332-2420 for a free consultation.