Advanced Pediatric Therapies


Slow Processing Speed: What it is, and What it isn’t

Slow processing speed is a condition in which a child has trouble keeping up with classroom learning.  The speed at which the material is presented is too fast for them to adequately integrate.  A child with slow processing speed may have problems following directions in an accurate and timely manner, be frustrated with classroom assignments/homework and may take an inordinately long time to complete tasks like picking out clothes, cleaning their room or finding a toy.

girl drawing on brown wooden table

Photo by Jena Backus on

Slow processing speed in and of itself is not a learning disability.  However, it contributes to problems in existing learning disabilities such as auditory processing disorder, ADD and dyslexia.  Slow processing speed can give rise to difficulty initiating tasks/projects, staying focused on the project and also being able to adjust their effort during the project.  For these reasons, it also impacts executive functioning skills.

Kids who are slow processors are often mistaken for not being smart, but it is their ability to take in information at a reasonable pace that is the problem, not their intelligence.  In the classroom, they have difficulty completing multi-step assignments, writing long papers, completing projects within an allotted time, listening and taking notes.  They may become emotionally overwhelmed and anxious with too much going on at once as they are unable to slow down their environment.

If you suspect that your child has slow processing speed, speak to your child’s teacher to see if they have noticed the same problems you have.  You might decide together to have your child tested at the school to see if accommodations can help (such as shorter tests and tests that aren’t timed).

In the meantime, give your child extra time to complete tasks and answer questions.  See if that helps alleviate some frustration.  If you have other children, anticipate that your child with slow processing speed may need an earlier wake up time, earlier warnings for transitions and more time to do chores.  They may need things repeated over and over again, which may be frustrating for you, but it is helpful to them.  The most important thing is that teachers and caregivers are aware of the problem.

Check out this slow processing speed fact sheet on  There is research going on as to why this happens in the brain, but there is no reason why kids with slow processing speed can’t learn, go to college and have successful careers and relationships.

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Is Your Child at Risk for Depression?


A recent report on NBC News shared that there are more than 300,000 depressed kids in the United States.  This is an overwhelming number for sure, but there is more to the story.  When thinking of depression, most people think sadness and “the blues.”  While this is sometimes true when talking about kids with depression, it can also be true that kids exhibit other signs which are less readily identified as such.  For example,  irritability may be the first sign of both anxiety and depression in younger kids.  Is your toddler throwing a long tantrum?  1-2 % of toddlers aged 2-5 are depressed.  Depression that goes untreated in younger kids can lead to depression in older kids, too.

Of American kids aged 3-17, 15 million will have a diagnosable mental health disorder during a given year.  Of those, only 20% will receive treatment.  That means 1 in 5 have a perhaps hidden mental health disorder but 2/3 will go untreated.  These diagnoses, as related by the Centers for Disease Control, include anxiety, depression, ADHD and unspecified behavior problems.

Of course, your adolescent can be moody.  This is a hallmark of their age.  However, the tendency to develop a major depression or even bipolar disorder doubles from ages 13-18.  And more than half of all mental health disorders begin by age 14.  In teens, the long term statistics indicate that depression, particularly in girls, is getting worse. This is even more of a reason to keep an eye on your child and report to your pediatrician if you are concerned.  Read the article from NBC News, they will be doing a yearlong investigation into the topic and have provided statistics and hopeful treatments.

For now, signs of depression in kids include difficulty planning/organizing, difficulty concentrating, body language that indicates sadness, forgetfulness, easily hurt feelings, isolation from peers, distractability, complaints of feeling sick/not going to school, crying and forgetting assignments.

For adolescents, symptoms include sulking, self deprecating comments, theft, truancy, sexual activity, alcohol or drug use, isolation, defiance, pessimistic ideas and suicidal thoughts.  

If you have questions or concerns, please speak to your OT or health care provider as soon as possible.  There are treatments that can help!


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Have Holiday Travel Planned? Some Tips to Get You There….

The holidays are a busy travel time.

The holidays are a busy travel time.

Traveling these days can be anxiety provoking for anyone, let alone our kids!  Before traveling this year, consider these tips.

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Let your child know when you are leaving, where you are going, who you will be visiting and what you will be doing.  The more they know ahead of time, the less likely the tantrum.
  • As part of the preparation, do an activity.  Have your child make a drawing of their cousins.  Show them pictures of their aunts and uncles if they haven’t seen them in a while.  Or show them photos of your destination.  Even showing them photos of the inside of an airport, security lines, etc.  Let them know!
  • All of us who travel know that it can be a frustrating process.  There may be delays or other unforeseen circumstances.  Have a back up plan like a travel game or photos or a favorite book.  If your child has a “lovey” that’s manageable, let them bring it!
  • Noise reducing headphones, post it notes, usually-not-allowed treats and stickers go a long way to reducing stress when you need it.  During the travel itself, be a little looser with the rules.  It will help everyone breathe a little easier.
  • By all means, if you are staying with friends or relatives, prepare them for your child’s needs and behavior.  If your child requires special seating, let them know you need a special spot.  If your child has special food requirements, pick them up ahead of time or let your family know.  If they know what to expect, your family and friends will be willing to help.
  • If your child’s behavior is an issue, talk to your therapist about how to manage it ahead of time.  This can include using routing planning charts, receiving special buttons for good behavior or other techniques.
  • Don’t plan too much!  Keep sightseeing and activities to a level that allows for rest and time to hang out.
  • Be willing to change the plan if it’s not working.
  • Keep food and other daily expectations as close to what they would have at home as possible.
  • Remember to have fun, connect with your child and enjoy the time away.  Research shows that vacations are the perfect time to work on ridding yourself of bad habits.  Think about that as you give yourself some much needed downtime.
  • If your child’s vestibular processing predisposes them to motion sickness, prepare with some ice cubes, water and perhaps an over the counter remedy.  Some parents we know swear by lavender essential oils to ease motion sickness on a long car trip.

Have a great trip!

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What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)

This book has been incredibly helpful to my own daughter and to many families I have worked with over the last couple years. It talks about anxiety in terms of a “worry bully” which is easy for kids to understand. Check out the Sensory Spectrum blog for other recommendations on books from parents of kids with sensory challenges.

The Sensory Spectrum What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids)

Guides children and parents through the cognitive-behavioral techniques most often used in the treatment of anxiety. This interactive self-help book is the complete resource for educating, motivating, and empowering kids to overcome their overgrown worries.

For the book, click here.

If you would like to purchase this book, please use the link provided. The cost is the same to you, but The Sensory Spectrum gets a small percentage to allow me to continue offering information about SPD for free. Thanks for your ongoing support!

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