Friday, 12 September 2014

What Do We Know About Brain Processing Speed?  ©Dyslexia Dublin, 2014
Brain processing speed deficit is so common in many of us… it can be comorbid in dyslexics, dyspraxics, dyscalculics, dysgraphics, ADD and those with ADHD.
Are you ever given, or have you given, several instructions to someone… maybe your child or partner and wonder why they have carried out part of the instructions, or none at all?  Maybe you have been given a verbal instruction, like a phone number or directions to a venue and had to ask again? How are you at remembering names? Not great… why is that!
Most of the children and adults we work with are extremely bright and have high IQ’s, but present with a learning support issue.  Processing speed is not presented as a key issue in many cases… the child with dyspraxia for instance might not get resource hours, as this tends to be given to those with dyslexia in the main.
You might have been told by your child’s teacher that they are always the last to finish an exercise or maybe you have taken a look at their course books and find gaps (take a look, it will tell you a lot!).  Does their writing deteriorate towards the end of their work?  This is an indication of them rushing to keep up with their peers.
Those with slow processing speed were, in the past, classed as stupid or lazy children.  This would be judged, as many are, on core subjects, whereas the opposite was true in the non-core subjects… why?
Children and adults with slow processing speed have gifts that others don’t have, like creating something from nothing.  They need to rehearse things a few times and then they fly.
As a parent, have you ever wondered why your child (or pupil, if you’re a teacher) performs really well in the school drama production and yet they underachieve in say Maths or English? With someone who have slow processing, rehearsing a play or over-learning is just what they need… how many times do they rehearse… 3-4,-5-6 times?  How many times are they shown a Maths equation or a piece of poetry… once maybe twice?  There is part of the problem.
Maybe you have noticed your child dragging their heels with homework or putting their books together for school.  Maybe you have asked them to do something whilst they watched television and you felt like they were ignoring you?  You haven’t got their attention… try standing in front of the telly and they will listen. 
Have you ever sent them shopping and they come back without some of the items?  Visual  stimuli is great in helping them to get this right.  Make flash cards… for shopping, flash cards of items are easy to do… download pictures of lemons, eggs, milk, etc.
For school, lay out their books on the table and place a tag with the day of the week alongside the books they need, take a photo and print it.
Take a picture of them with their uniform on, for dressing.  This can also be done for many other things like brushing hair, teeth, etc.
I get parents to use a colour coded weekly calendar of their timetable and this improves processing and reduces problems with forgetting books, etc.
Try and talk to your child’s teacher and maybe they will give them the homework on paper or early in the lesson, as the end of a class or day becomes hurried and noisy.
During my many years as a teacher I have seen a variety of approaches in ideas and later in the use of technology to support areas such as this (some indirectly); in my last post we had an internal internet that the students could log onto where most teachers like myself used to log the homework and course work… a great idea and if they were off sick they could work at home or catch up later.
We as parents/carers and teachers need to look very carefully at our children and identify this and if we feel there is a problem get it diagnosed! Governments and those at the top of the Education Departments also need to be aware to include this where necessary, when it comes to giving extra time in exams and also resourcing during term time.  We work with so many students that are just over the bar as dyslexic learners, due to improvements… and might I add the bar is set too high in the first instance, but yet the child might still have slow processing speed and this is not taken into account.
Can you remember being back at school and the teacher writing down copious notes on the board and at a fair pace?  She or he had no problem with flow…why?  Well, for one, not many teachers would have slow processing speed and they would have also written that many times before.  New teachers tend to go much slower, as this is new to them too and they would write slower, thus the pupils with slow processing speed would have a greater chance of keeping up.
I would urge teachers to make a cross reference with a student who is struggling in the written subjects and excels in the kinaesthetic areas such as Home Economics, Woodwork or Drama.  Maybe the Home Economics teacher wonders why the child is great in practical (stimuli and repetition) and poor in the written/theory side of the subject (lack of stimuli and repetition).
Have you ever looked at your child’s Report and wondered why the Art teacher says great things and the English teacher appears concerned, or maybe writes in a negative way?
Homework can be improved if it’s based on what the child has done during the day.  Use a sand timer (say 15 minute stints) and allow them to have a very small break between subjects.  I think schools should move to giving less subjects each evening, but more of the same.  This will not only reduce the weight of the school bag, but also reduce the risk of forgetting a long list of homework and would also improve retention.
Short term memory work can make a big difference and making all of the subjects kinaesthetically based too.

NB. This information is from personal experience and research and also partly sourced through the work of others. It is purely for improving the understanding of dyslexia and to offer helpful advice. Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2014

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