A common concern expressed by parents in my clinical psychology practice is “my kid has trouble processing.” My first response is to say, “what do you mean by trouble processing? “From the psychologist’s standpoint, the term “processing” can have a multitude of meanings. Psychologists talk about auditory processing, visual processing, written language processing, sensory processing, language processing, information processing, and many others. The terminology that psychologists use is often much more specific than what parents are attempting to explain. What I have found is that generally, parents are telling me that their kids have difficulty in efficiently understanding and doing something with the information that is presented to them. And these parents are wondering what will help. Here is some good news: there are many common technologies and strategies to help kids with processing difficulties.
In order to help kids with “processing troubles’, it is crucial to have a clearer understanding of the problem. We need to go beyond “my kid has trouble processing.” For example, a child might have problems following directions or verbal instructions, something that we might refer to as difficulties with auditory processing. They may struggle to process and understand what they read or may struggle to understand with they see indicative of difficulties with visual processing. They may have a broader language-based learning disability that encompasses many concerns with the processing of information.
One way to understand “processing” is to view it mechanically- sort of like how a car runs. We input gas, the engine transforms/processes it into energy, and the output is to be able to drive the car. While oversimplified, consider how a child takes in information (sensory, verbal, visual information) from their environment, has their brain process, consider, translate, make sense of this information, and then displays output – a behavior, action, emotional response, a thought, or a reaction. To complicate matters further, there is often overlap in the types of information that kids are processing. For example, auditory and visual processing may be needed when a child is receiving verbal instructions and a demonstration about a task.
When parents describe their child as having problems “processing”, they often notice it because their kids are slower at doing things-whether that be homework, getting ready for school in the morning, or answering a question. Because “processing” is seen as an internal operation occurring via the senses and brain, we tend to judge it by the observable-the actions, verbalizations, behaviors, and reactions of the individual. And more often than not, we are describing kids who can figure things out but take a long time to do so. Here are some technologies and strategies to help kids with processing difficulties.
- Be patient. Allow more time to think, consider, and produce completed work.
- Identify tools and strategies to help with auditory processing difficulties. Personal listening devices and FM systems are frequently used in schools.
- Use apps and technologies to improve the efficiency of written output. Just like a bicycle will usually get you somewhere quicker than walking, typing and dictation can be tools to improve the efficiency of writing. Recognize, however, that developing each of these skills often requires training, not just handing over the technology.
- Explore apps that support weak processing skills. For example, Notability can record lectures while a child is taking notes, allowing a student with auditory and written language processing issues to review and reprocess what they might have missed.
- Learn more about productivity and study apps that fit your child’s needs. A great source of information can be found in our apps search on learningworksforkids.com.