School is all about proving that you’re learning, but kids with executive function problems and/or slow processing speed may struggle to show what they know. Excessive student frustration means kids aren’t learning and eventually won’t even want to try.
There is an inevitable impact on a student’s progress at school. Likewise, this affects a student’s self-esteem and motivation to put forth sustained effort on schoolwork. Parents often observe intense levels of frustration and anger when these kids are doing homework, need to complete a school project, or are studying for an exam. The frustration can be intense for kids with slow processing speed and is frequently accompanied by problems with executive functioning issues of working memory, time management, task initiation, sustained focus, and task persistence.
Many kids with slow processing speed are very capable learners and demonstrate other strong cognitive skills but just can’t get things done in a timely fashion. They can’t show what they know!
The intensity of the frustration and anger and, in turn, the arguments that occur over homework and school that children with slow processing speed experience can be fierce. Typically these kids can’t articulate why they get so upset about their school difficulties. They know that something is wrong, that they are not doing as well as their peers, and that they are falling further behind in school. Because so many of them have strong cognitive skills in other areas they are able to compare themselves to others, recognize their failings, and also glimpse how readily they can learn and acquire knowledge. But they also know that they are unable to demonstrate this in the format expected by their parents and teachers.
The most frustrated slow processors are not typically those with the slowest processing speed. Instead, they are the ones whose processing speed is most different (lower) from their other cognitive abilities. This can be seen in kids with strong reasoning skills who are capable of understanding and solving a variety of problems but cannot effectively show their work in a timely fashion and in those who have excellent reading comprehension and can remember and make inferences immediately from their reading but then cannot complete an essay demonstrating their knowledge.
Perhaps the most common source of frustration for slow processors occurs in those who have strong verbal skills and seem to know everything but struggle in organizing their thoughts and putting them down on paper. It is important to help these children recognize their other areas of strength due to concerns regarding related self-esteem issues.
I have developed a measure to assess the level of frustration demonstrated by so many slow processors. This “Frustration Index” can be a good predictor of how frustrated kids may be as a result of the relative level of their deficit in processing speed compared to their other cognitive abilities. The Frustration Index is based upon scores achieved on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fifth Edition (WISC-V), the newest and most widely used IQ test in the United States. The WISC-V should be considered as a screening measure or set of guidelines; accurately assessing the type and scope of a deficit in processing speed requires more than an IQ test. Consultation with your school psychologist, a child clinical psychologist, or a neuropsychologist to conduct a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation should be carried out for children who have suspected difficulty with slow processing speed.
These are the frustration markers for the WISC-V:
Negligible – Processing Speed Index on WISC-V is no more than 10 points lower than any other index score, and the Full Scale score is in the Average Range.
Mild – Processing Speed Index is 15-20 points lower than the Verbal or Fluid Reasoning indices, and the Full Scale score is in the Low Average Range.
Modest – Processing Speed Index is 15-20 points lower than the Verbal or Fluid Reasoning indices, and the Full Scale score is in the Average Range.
Considerable – Processing Speed Index is 25 points (or more) lower than the Verbal or Fluid Reasoning indices, and the Full Scale score is in the Average Range.
Impactful – Processing Speed Index is 20- 25 points lower than the Verbal or Fluid Reasoning indices, and the Full Scale score is in the Average Range.
High – Processing Speed Index is 20- 25 points lower than the Verbal Index, and the Full Scale score is in the High Average Range.
Over the Top – Processing Speed Index is 30 points (or more) lower than the Verbal Index, and the Full Scale score is in the High Average Range.
Featured image: Flickr user Jayson Ignacio