Strategy Over Speed: Improve Slow Mental Processing

Is it possible to improve slow processing speed, or should we work around it?

Is your child a slow processor? Do they think and speak slowly? Have teachers observed that they are very capable but just don’t write or answer questions as quickly as their peers? Do you want to help them improve slow mental processing speed?

The first thing you should do is stop worrying and feeling guilty about it. For most kids who are slow processors, it has more to do with nature than nurture. It’s how they were born. We might be able to get them to move a little bit faster, but we are often better at helping them understand their style and giving them the skills that might help them become more strategic and efficient. This edition of the LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games series is all about strategies that can help kids work smarter and even eventually improve slow mental processing speed.

Wait for it. It’s not always wise to do homework or chores ASAP. Taking on tasks can be a waste of time if a child doesn’t have the energy they need to focus, organize, plan, and manage time. Observe a child to determine when they tend to be most productive and then schedule homework or other difficult tasks during peak energy levels. This won’t be the same for every child; some kids are more energetic before school in the morning and others before bed at night. Use an app like ChoreMonster to assign chores with a due date rather than a mandate to do them right now.

Slow down. Difficulty with time management or a tendency to move slowly means different things for different children. Kids who tend to process verbal information slowly, for example, may need to be given directions slowly and methodically so they can take all the information in and make sense of it. Other kids may readily understand verbal directions but lack the ability to produce a completed task in a certain format. Slow processors may have slow output, as well, and may benefit from being allowed alternative methods of completion. Try a dictation app like Dragon.

Take a break. You probably know what it’s like to have inefficiently spent hours trying to do something and then magically accomplished it after taking a break to walk and get fresh air. This is a method that works for children too. Taking 10- to 15-minute exercise breaks that include physical activities — running around the house, doing a set of push-ups, or taking the dog out for a short walk — can make a big difference. Once your child demonstrates the ability to transition back to work efficiently, allow them to schedule breaks on their own. Try using the clock app on a phone or tablet or a timer app like Timer+.

Kudos count. Reward good time management with privileges that come with accountability. A child may be more apt to complete things on time and maintain good prioritization if they are rewarded for this type of behavior. Allow them to watch a favorite movie or television program, take them to their favorite restaurant, or plan a special outing when they have budgeted their time well and gotten things done. An app like HabitRPG is the perfect complement to this strategy.


Featured image: Flickr user Johnathan Nightingale

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