Processing Speed Blues

Have you ever fought with your kids to get out the door in the morning on time? Or find you are always telling them to hurry up!!! because they seem to take forever doing anything? Eating. Brushing their teeth. Getting dressed. Doing their chores. Getting out of bed.

Pretty much anything.
If so, you might want to consider if your child has trouble with processing speed.

Processing speed is the pace at which we take information in, make sense of it, use the information, and begin to respond. Understanding the significance of slow processing speed for our kids is critical to highlight because, if misunderstood, they are at risk for becoming discouraged. And discouraged kids tend to give up. And tune out.
Slow processing is not the same as intelligence, but it does affect how well our kids learn, complete tasks, and show us what they know. Even the most intellectually gifted of kids who have slow processing makes it hard for them to finish tasks in a timely manner. Kids with slow processing need more  time to perform different tasks at home or school than kids without such difficulties.

Moving slowly or failing to complete tasks has nothing to do with laziness, motivation, or defiance. These kids simply cannot do the tasks well and quickly.

For example, slow processing can make it hard for kids to organize their  thoughts or belongings. They might find it hard to come up with ideas to write. They might not be able to put their thoughts and words in order. They may fail to attend to details and make careless mistakes. They might not be able to complete a very simple task within a certain period of time. They may not be able to plan out the steps they need to take to do something like clean their room.

Slow processing can also limit other functional abilities, such as memory. When we need more time to think about what we need to do and then to actually get started and do the think we need to do, our cognitive resources (i.e., brain power) are being taxed. We put greater demands on our working memory, which can make it hard to not only learn, but also to remember what we need to be doing and how to do it in the first place.
Slow processing can also impair social interactions and successful participation in activities with peers. Social activities like chatting with peers may be cognitively demanding, which could lead to feelings of frustration and/or anxiety. When kids experience interpersonal difficulties, they tend to use less assertive or effective conversational skills and may tend to withdraw from social interactions as a coping strategy, where little is required of them. isolation begins to set in. Unfortunately, passivity hinders development of positive peer relationships. They become isolated. And reinforce feelings of frustration and/or low self-esteem.
Emotional difficulties can also stem from slow processing, such as within the context of a demanding classroom that requires quick processing and responses. Or a rushed home where there is a lot of stress about getting our the door.

Indeed, in an environment where there are pressures to perform faster, it would not be unusual for kids to experience anxiety as a consequence of slow processing speed.

Sometimes kids can hold it together long enough to get through the day at school but might have trouble controlling emotions at home. It would not be unusual for kids to then also demonstrate rigid behaviours wherever they can, so that the demands of their environment are minimized.
It is important to consider what difficulties your child is having specifically because there are different aspects of processing speed that can affect a child's success. For example, some kids will have a hard time with organizing time, making it hard to get started on things. These kids might also have a hard time organizing their thoughts and cannot express themselves effectively, which might come out behaviourally.

Other kids might tire quickly because of the time and effort it takes to do things. When kids tire, it is hard for them to maintain their focus once they have started doing something. They work slowly and have a hard time sticking with it until they are done.
So, what can be done? Can we make our kids faster?

To date, there is nothing that we can do to build the brain for quicker processing. However, there are things we can do to support our kids so that they don't become frustrated and defeated and instead become resilient, successful young adults.

I will go through recommendations in my next email. In the meantime, start to think about if your child might have trouble with slow processing and where things get hard.

Happy to help.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions about anything in this article or other related topics.

Also feel free to reach out and let me know if there is a particular topic you would like me to write about.
Dr. Caroline Buzanko

Dr. Caroline Buzanko is a mom (with ADHD) who has first hand experience parenting kids with ADHD. She is also a leading expert working with families and kids with ADHD and has years of clinical experience as a psychologist to share with you.
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Copyright © 2019 Dr. Caroline Buzanko, All rights reserved.

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