We’ve been writing a lot for parents about what a slow processing speed diagnosis means for their children and what can be done to help kids be as successful as possible in spite of the disorder. Surviving school is obviously one of the biggest concerns for these parents. But the truth is, kids don’t come equipped with labels that announce their slow processing speed, and teachers are often baffled and frustrated by kids who appear to be capable but struggle to keep up with the pace of classroom instruction. At times they appear confused and unable to follow directions and frequently have difficulty completing written assignments in the time allotted. These students are often the last to complete tests or quizzes and may receive lower grades because of incomplete work. So how can you tell a child is genuinely struggling with school? Do you ever wish there was a guide to teaching a child with slow processing speed?
The frustration that teachers experience with these kids is understandable but is generally counterproductive. Kids with slow processing speed often beat themselves up to the point where they do become unmotivated and frustrated. They may give up and not work as hard on schoolwork because they have learned that they can’t do as well as their peers. Some, particularly those with slow handwriting speed, may rush through written tasks, producing illegible work. Unfortunately, these kids have learned that it can take them two to three times the amount of time it might take their peers if they want to write neatly while completing assignments (if that is actually possible for them).
Slow processing speed can manifest itself in many ways. Slow processing speed can affect fine motor speed, causing kids to show a weakness in copying speed completing a task involving manual dexterity. It can also delay visual and verbal processing and be the root of attention problems. More than half of kids diagnosed with ADHD are likely to display some slowness in their processing speed. Many kids with slow processing speed also display difficulty with executive functioning skills. Skills such as task initiation (the capacity to know how to get started on assignments effectively) and task persistence (the capacity to sustain one’s effort while engaged in a task) are common executive functioning weaknesses in kids with slow processing speed. Poor executive functioning skills tend to exacerbate slow processing of information.
Difficulty in keeping up with one’s peers often leads to the most troubling effect of processing speed, low self-esteem. Children who experience slow processing speed often feel “stupid” or “dumb” and come to feel as though they are “bad” students. Teachers can inadvertently play into this narrative when they misidentify slow processing speed for laziness, lack of motivation, or lack of effort. Many kids with slow processing speed are trying very hard but just can’t keep up with the pace of work.
The following series of articles is written primarily for parents and teachers in order to help the adults in their lives understand slow processing speed in children. These articles can assist teachers in recognizing slow processing speed and understanding its causes, accommodating children in the classroom, and developing strategies to improve slow processing speed in children
Featured image: Flickr user Mathematical Association of America