Kids with slow processing speed tend to do everything slowly. Whether it’s getting ready for school in the morning or finishing homework at night, things just take longer to do. It might seem at times that your child with slow processing speed is oblivious to the passage of time. At other times, it may appear that your child either isn’t motivated or just doesn’t care. It is commonly assumed that kids with slow processing speed just aren’t paying attention or are so easily distracted that things always take longer for them to complete.
While slow processing speed is primarily caused by biological factors that impact the input, processing, and output of information and activity, there are other factors that play a role in how quickly and efficiently kids complete tasks. Every kid diagnosed with slow processing speed is different. It’s important to identify a predisposition toward inattention, lack of motivation, time blindness, executive functioning skills, or immaturity that may exacerbate a child’s slow processing speed.
Here are some targeted strategies to help children with slow processing speed that is impacted by additional factors.
Talk with your child’s physician or psychiatrist. Consider medication if your child has concurrent attentional difficulties. 61% of kids with ADHD have processing speed issues. While little data suggests that stimulant medication directly improves processing speed, a child with very slow processing speed and a mild ADHD diagnosis might show some improvement with attention, activation, and sustained focus. It is worth considering if your child is falling further behind academically and has become discouraged with school.
Do everything you can to get a 504 plan in place. 504 plans include accommodations such as extra time to complete tasks, reduced writing expectations, and help getting started on projects. This extra help can often spell the difference between a motivated and a discouraged learner. Understood.org has excellent information about 504 plan and IEPs (Individualized Education Programs).
Conduct time studies for routine tasks. Spend a week measuring how long it takes your child to do everyday tasks, like shower or eat breakfast. Start a chart and set some goals to shave off time. Continue charting to help your child see how they have improved with effort.
Use audio books or highlighted reading. (Do not do this until your child is a capable reader who is decoding words effectively.) Because slow processing speed impacts reading fluency, and in turn reading comprehension, technologies such as audiobooks and reading assistants can be invaluable to kids with slow processing speed. Try Amazon Whispersync, and use it as the first choice for longer reading assignments.
Chunk activities to improve efficiency. Another way to help children with slow processing speed is to have them practice working memory exercises like chunking. Find simple routines that a child can easily master, such as brushing their hair and teeth during the same visit to bathroom. Pair these tasks logically for optimum efficiency. This goes hand-in-hand with the next strategy.
Make important tasks automatic. Reduce the amount of work your child’s brain has to do in any given situation by having them practice mundane tasks until they become automatic. But choose wisely! Don’t waste time having your child practice things that may not be necessary for them to master, like handwriting. Evidence suggests that kids with slow or illegible handwriting are biologically programmed for this difficulty. And in the real world, penmanship just doesn’t matter. Instead, introduce them to typing. While they may have to “hunt-and-peck” at first, have them slowly work their way toward correct finger-placement and movement while watching the keyboard. With practice, they’ll get faster and faster, and eventually they won’t even have to look. A video game like Burning Fingers is a perfect way to make this practice fun.
Help a child prioritize. You may have heard the saying, “work smarter, not harder.” A key part of competence is being able to determine when quality is more important than quantity, or vice versa. If your child is constantly struggling to keep up, it’s important to expose them to tasks and projects where the quality of work is more important than how quickly it is completed. At the same time, they need to know how to prioritize real-world tasks. Help them recognize that a 30-minute shower will not make them any cleaner than a 10-minute shower. Demonstrate that while sometimes it’s fun and rewarding to spend hours making a delicious dinner, at other times it’s okay to put that time and energy toward other things and just warm up leftovers.
It seems that slow processing speed just isn’t talked about enough, so we’ve put together articles that make it easier to help children with slow processing speed. Read more about parenting a child with slow processing speed, and see “What Is Slow Processing Speed in Children?” to learn more about slow processing speed as a biological difficulty. We’ve scoured the Web for videos that can help your child make sense of how their brain works and what steps they need to take to adapt — and we’ve even included links to videos that are helpful for adults, as well. You can find even more resources and videos here.
Featured image: Flickr user vazovsky