Advanced Pediatric Therapies

Kid-Powered

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 Pexels.com

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 Understood.org.  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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Why Can’t My Child Focus?

As your child goes back to school, you may be concerned about his or her ability to pay attention.

As your child goes back to school, you may be concerned about his or her ability to pay attention.

At APT, we see a lot of kids who have a hard time paying attention.  They fidget, they get up, their eyes wander.  There are as many reasons for this as there are kids!  By paying attention yourself, you can help your child focus on the task at hand.

You’ve got to move it, move it…  I apologize in advance for getting that song in your head, but it’s true!  Movement kick starts the brain’s ability to pay attention.  Provided in the proper ways, movement helps a child’s focus.  A great way to start the school year is to walk to school, or if you can’t, park further away and walk.  Try and get some movement going in the morning.  Stay away from the tv.

Talk to your child’s teacher.  Giving them a head’s up on your child is important.  Lots of teachers have great expertise in helping kids to focus with such programs as BrainGym.  Doing wall push ups or dots and squeezes prior to activities which require focus is helpful.  Some teachers set aside long periods for seated work.  Let your child’s teacher know that he or she will need a movement break (which can benefit the whole class!)  If you need suggestions for how to talk to your child’s teacher, ask us!

Read to your child, or do crafts.  When kids see that if they put the time in, they will be rewarded, they are more likely to follow through.  Try your hardest to keep going even when your child wants to give up (squirming, eye-rolling…).  Your commitment to the end result (getting to the ending of the story, a complete craft project) will go a long way to helping your child know the consequences of diligence.

Pay attention to posture and breathing.  When kids are slumped or don’t otherwise have room to expand their breathing muscles, they engage in more shallow breathing.  As such, their bodies are telling them, it’s okay to relax and check out now.  When kids sit up, they are more able to breathe efficiently and thereby pay attention better.  Try it yourself.

Board games.  Those board games that are gathering dust?  Pull them out of your closet and give them a whirl.  A game with a beginning, middle and end is a great way to reward sustained concentration.  You may have more fun than you think you will!  See us for ideas on games your child might like.

Go outside and play.  Tag, hide and seek and catch are great ways to encourage longer periods of focus.  Working in the yard, garden or tool shed with dad are great ways to motivate longer periods of attention.

Rethink technology.  Many of us parents are loathe to allow a child to spend time in front of a screen.  Read this article on the Touch Screen Generation.  It may help you figure it out.  Limiting their time and having them earn screen time are good ideas.

Examine your own reactions.  Try not to let them give up, even when accompanied by whining.  Also, don’t run to help them at the first sign of frustration.  It’s good for your child to be uncomfortable and have to struggle to figure something out.  Now is the time for them to learn those skills.

As always, ask your OT to help you if you have questions or concerns.

Thanks to Pediastaff for some ideas in this post.

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