We’ve been writing a lot for parents about what 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. But teachers are often baffled and frustrated by children who display slow processing speed in the classroom. Because these kids don’t come equipped with labels that announce their slow processing speed, they 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.
Slow processing speed can manifest itself in many ways. Slow processing speed may be observed in fine motor speed, when kids show a weakness in how fast they can copy something or complete a task involving manual dexterity. Slow processing speed can also be seen in visual and verbal processing, as well. In addition, there are often indications 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 develop a sense of being “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 frustration that teachers experience with these kids can be palatable but is generally counterproductive. These kids often beat themselves up to the point where they can 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).
The following series of articles is designed to help teachers understand what is slow processing speed in children and to help them recognize the signs of slow processing speed in the classroom. The articles could assist teachers in understanding the causes of slow processing speed, accommodations they could make for children in the classroom, and strategies they could use to improve slow processing speed in children.
Featured image: Flickr user woodleywonderworks