Some kids take hours to do their homework. It may seem wonderful to have a child willing to put so much time into completing homework, but more often than not a student who takes so long to finish an assignment is struggling. Some kids who spend too much time on homework have learning difficulties, others may be hampered by attentional difficulties.
However, a good proportion of kids who spend too much time on homework are struggling with some type of processing speed difficulty. They may read slowly, hand-write slowly, or even spend an inordinate amount of time moving an idea from his head onto a piece of paper. Some of the children who display these processing speed difficulties may be diagnosed with ADHD, or learning disabilities. However, many children simply do not work quickly and efficiently. For many kids with slow processing speed it’s not just about doing schoolwork, but it’s completing chores, responding to others in a conversation, or having difficulty getting ready to get to school in the morning.
Processing speed difficulties reflects the rate at which children are able to take in information about their world and do something with it. In school, slow processing speed often affects reading speed, writing fluency, and even the capacity to formulate ideas and express them verbally. Kids who tend to do their homework at a snail’s pace are often characterized by extremely slow handwriting (when they try to write neatly) or hasty, illegible handwriting that needs to be redone before turning in and assignment.
Unfortunately, many kids who take forever to do their homework become exceedingly frustrated with school work and become negative in their self appraisal. This is in part because they will often observed that students in their classroom do their work more quickly than they do. As a result, kids with slow processing often feel dumb or stupid, rather than recognizing that they simply move more slowly. If this is the case with your child, it is extremely important to have these processing speed issues evaluated and then to help your child and his teachers to understand that slow processing is not a choice.
While we can make some modest improvements in processing speed through interventions such as playing action video games, enhancing time awareness, and using technologies such as typing or dictation, slow processing speed will continue to be a concern. Processing information slowly is not a choice just like being a slow runner is not a choice. We can make improvements in both processing speed and running speed, but a child will be somewhat limited by his ceilings in the specific ability areas.
The most important thing that a parent or teacher can do for a child with slow processing speed is to him them to understand the nature of this difficulty and to make appropriate accommodations and develop strategies to address it. Rather than blaming the child, it becomes important to do things such as reducing the amount of homework given, providing some help with scribing or technology, and allow for alternative forms of completing one’s work. When these interventions take place, not only will the child become more efficient, they are likely to become a more committed and less frustrated student.
See our strategies for students with slow processing speed. Read our educator’s guide to slow processing speed in the classroom and our parent’s guide to slow processing speed to learn how to help a child with slow processing speed in the school and home settings.
Featured image: Flickr user Phil Roeder