the sand between my toes

MSR Learning Support – Information and references for supporting learning differences in a Montessori classroom

Slow Processing Speed

on 07/11/2012

This is general information for educators on how to work with students who have visual or auditory proessing difficulties.  These are strategies to be used in understanding the child and accommodations for the classroom.

Information Taken from:  http://www.familylight.com/link3/3.04/S_Proc/M_M.htm  Merridee Michelsen, PhD Assistant Headmaster – Internal Affairs Director of Academics Brandon Hall School 1701 Brandon Hall Drive Atlanta, GA 30350

Processing speed affects how the brain organizes information.  It impacts upon a person’s ability to focus on important things while ignoring less important items, and is what allows the brain to shift from one activity to another.  There are many ways the brain receives information. In school, the two most common ways students receive and process information are through auditory and visual input (National Center for Learning Disabilities).

How well a student understands what someone is saying, his ability to keep up when someone talks quickly, to block out distracting, interfering sounds, to distinguish one voice from another, remember what he has heard, and sequence sounds correctly are a just a few of the procedures involved with auditory processing. Auditory processing is not a problem with the student’s hearing, but rather it is with how that information is interpreted by the brain.

Some of the components of visual processing include how quickly and easily he can understand what he sees, his ability to picture things in his head, and remember what he sees. It also includes a student’s ability see words and numbers as meaningful units and to understand the difference between b’s and d’s or p’s and q’s. Visual processing is used when a person coordinates his movement with what he sees. If there is a disconnect between what is seen and how the body responds, the person will appear to be awkward or clumsy.

How quickly someone can look at visual information and make sense of it is impacted by processing speed.  If a person processes more slowly than the people around him, there may be negative repercussions with his level of awareness, his working memory, how he interacts with his peers, and how comfortable he feels in social situations. Because it takes the person longer to process material, he may have difficulty linking new information to his prior knowledge. If a person has weak or undeveloped social skills due to a slow processing speed, as time goes on and more is expected of him, he may become frustrated.  Frustration only compounds the problem and a downward spiral begins.  Parents often see the impact of their child’s processing speed when the child seems unable to begin and complete household chores or homework.

Richard Lavoie, in his Fat City video (Frustration, Anger and Tension), shows how students with processing speed issues are often still processing a question when the teacher expects an answer.  Even if a student knows the answer, he may have slow word retrieval problems, so he is unable to participate in the same manner as his classmates.  Lavoie explains that for a student who processes language slowly, note taking is a nightmare. It is not a matter of motivation; the student simply cannot respond as quickly as a classmate that does not have processing difficulties. (Note: I have a copy of this DVD in the Resource room.)

First and foremost, the student needs the gift of time.  In all reading and math tasks, be they tests, quizzes or homework, the student needs more time to show his proficiency and less laborious assignments to prove his knowledge.

  • For reading, I strongly suggest the student become a member of RFB&D (see online information).  This is a government subsidized program that was started in the forties to support the visually impaired but now has extended their services to students with all sorts of reading handicaps (of which reading fluency is part).  By listening to tapes (even ones of text books), and following along with a highlighter, The student can more correctly pace reading intake and enhance comprehension, increase comprehension, and eliminate anxiety (which interferes with the successful completion of all human behaviors).  This is also a very positive accommodation for students with ADHD.  Therefore, the student should be allowed to have all his books, text and novels, on recording devices.
  • He should be able to have a reader and scribe for testing purposes.
  • He should be kept on a very regular schedule, avoiding transitions and disruptions.
  • Directions should be made in short and clear commands.
  • Give the student only one task at a time.
  • Don’t over schedule – teach the student how to set priorities.
  • Well-established and understood daily plans will help the student to sequence his educational expectations, reducing anxiety.  Anxiety can decrease processing speed.
  • Instruction should be repeated and non-verbal directions should be employed, as students with auditory speed deficits can often perceive spoken language as coming at them too fast to process correctly.
  • Peer and cooperative learning opportunities can assist the student since processing the information becomes a shared responsibility.
  • Assess authentically – considering the quality of the student’s work and not the quantity.
  • He must have direct instruction on those targeted weak skill areas identified in his most recent psycho-educational battery.  After school tutoring is the most desirable, as the “pull out program” has been proven to be unsuccessful in accomplishing the goal of academic advancement.
  • The student should be taught how to skim while reading – specific techniques are required and should be directly taught by the learning specialist in his school.  While improvement takes effort on The student’s part – the instruction must come from a person well-versed in reading methods.
  • Specific time to practice the development of reading and math fluency should be provided within the school day.
  • Math manipulative should be used and with variety, especially when teaching new concepts.  This will also reduce an overload of verbal commands that often become jumbled for students with slow processing capabilities.
  • Model all math procedures – slowly.
  • Revisit new vocabulary a minimum of 6 times in multiple ways to increase working memory capabilities.
  • Emphasize hands-on real-life learning for problem solving – which decreases the need for auditory input.

Additional Website for resource:  http://www.etfo.ca/MULTIMEDIA/WEBCASTS/SPECIALEDUCATION/Pages/Processing%20Speed.aspx

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