Kids Who Spend Too Much Time on Homework – The Impact of Slow Processing Speed

Some kids take hours to do their homework. You may think it is admirable that your child is willing to put so many hours into completing their homework, but more often than not this is actually a sign that your child is struggling. Some kids who spend too much time on homework have learning difficulties. Others may be hampered by attentional concerns. However, a good proportion of kids who spend too much time on homework are struggling with some type of processing speed difficulty.

These kids may read slowly, hand-write slowly, or spend an inordinate amount of time struggling to get an idea from their head onto a piece of paper. Some of the children who display these processing speed difficulties may be diagnosed with ADHD or various learning disabilities. But many children simply do not work quickly and efficiently. For many kids with slow processing speed, the issue affects their schoolwork, chores, social lives, and schedule.

Processing speed refers to the rate at which a child is able to take in information about their world and do something with it. In school, slow processing speed often affects reading speed, writing fluency, or 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 write neatly) or hasty, illegible handwriting that needs to be redone before turning in and assignment.

Unfortunately, kids who take forever to do their homework become exceedingly frustrated with school work and negative in their self-appraisal. Often they observe that other students in their classroom do their work more quickly than they do. As a result, kids with slow processing often feel “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 the way that 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 biology.

The most important thing that a parent or teacher can do for a child with slow processing speed is to help them 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 transcribing or assistive 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.


Featured image: Flickr user Paige Bollman

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