I am frequently asked by parents what can be done to help children who really struggle to keep up in class. I have just attended a webinar run by Understood.org, where this topic was discussed by Ellen Braaten Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School). In her studies, Braaten found that around 60% of children presenting with slow processing speed also had an ADHD diagnosis. 20% of the sample of children were diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, while the remaining 20% of children had no other further diagnosis beyond a slow processing speed.
Slow processing speed does not relate to intelligence. Many children with processing issues can be of average intelligence or above. The ability to think quickly does not necessarily make someone smarter. Slow processing speed cannot be changed or cured. It will be with a child, as part of their make-up. It will affect their learning and their social skills.
Many children with slow processing speed often struggle to keep up in the classroom. Processing issues prevent them from getting information copied down from the board quickly enough, or getting work finished on time. They struggle to keep up with their peers socially, often missing social cues, struggling to understand jokes or sarcasm quickly enough to keep up with those around them. This can often leave them feeling stressed, isolated, frustrated, emotional and anxious. In this type of situation, when the child is stressed, their processing speed becomes even slower, therefore they are caught in a vicious cycle. So, how can we help our children who have processing issues?
You can't change slow processing speed. It is something we have to teach children to cope with. Here are some ways in which we can help:
Keep kids active
Although this may seem quite unrelated, allow your child plenty of time outside, swinging, climbing and running around. Something as simple as hanging from the monkey bars is good for brain development!
Make time for time
Children with processing issues generally have a very poor concept of time in all its forms. Help them to understand how long ten minutes really is and what can be done in that amount of time. Talk about time, helping them to understand the passage of time from day to day, week to week, and month to month. How long is it until their birthday? How many days until they go to the cinema? These types of questions help to build a better understanding of the passage of time.
Explain the issue
Talk to you child about slow processing speed and what it will mean for them. Help them to understand that perhaps they are more of a thinker, and better at 'A' than they are at 'B'. Explain that they just need a little bit more time to think to be able to complete a task and that they can do it just as well as anyone else with a few extra minutes' thinking time!
Go get organised!
As time management is already a problem, try to take the pressure off your child by helping them to organise themselves more effectively. Build routines into their day, so that time management becomes less of an issue.
There are also many ways in which your child's teacher can help at school. Understood.org have a fantastic post of their website - click here to see it.
If you are curious about mental speed, Psychologytoday.com have a test on their website where you can find out how quickly you can process information and make decisions based upon that information. To take the test, click here.
At Emerald Education Centre, we understand that children learn differently, so we build tailor-made programmes of learning to fit your child's needs. Call Elaine on 083 8550210 or contact us through our Facebook page or our website.