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Slow Processing Speed And Homework

Homework can be demanding, and many teachers require students to do assignments that are multi-faceted and require several steps. If a student struggles with Simultaneous or Successive processing, this type of homework will be confusing, challenging, and frustrating. 

Success in school requires students to think, learn, solve problems, and complete tasks. Simultaneous and Successive processing are the two main ways that the brain gathers and organizes information helping students to encode, transform, and retain information. 

Simultaneous processing is the ability to take separate pieces of information and see how they relate and interact as a whole. This requires both nonverbal and verbal processing and is used to recognize patterns, understand geometry, see groups of letters as words, and recognize that a paragraph is part of a complete essay or story. This process is also involved in reading comprehension because it requires the integration and understanding of word relationships and how all aspects of a specific text fits together. 

Successive processing is the ability to work with information that is arranged in a specific order and organizing bits of information into a chainlike progression. Multi-step directions, the order of words in a sentence, and memorizing a series of digits like a phone number are examples of Successive processing. This procedure occurs when information must be remembered or completed in a specific order or sequence. 

The brain is complex and complicated. The processing of information begins with sensory perception and may require multiple sensory modalities. The visual, auditory, and tactile systems are critical to learning. Here are suggestions to help kids that have slow processing speed complete assignments that are multi-faceted. 

  1. Distractions can cause a student to miscue on directions.  Remove all environmental distractions like cell phones. 

  2. Introduce instructions one step at a time. Reading all the directions without clarification may confuse and be overwhelming.

  3. When directions are shared, make sure that the student is engaged in active listening. Ask the student to repeat back the instructions to ensure understanding. 

  4. Break the assignment into simple steps and complete one level before moving to the next step. You may need to “model” the process and have them mimic your work. 

  5. Use cues to enhance stored information and to reduce memory overload. 

Sensory gating is an attention filter that regulates the importance of information and determines whether it should be stored or disregarded. For the brain to process data, it must first be stored and then retained. This is where sensory memory, working memory, and long-term memory come into play. Correctly storing information is necessary for the retrieval of information to take place. While working with a student on a multi-step assignment, take time for them to process each step before moving to the next level. If they are focused on irrelevant information, processing and retention of information will be difficult. 

Slow processing speed can contribute to learning and attention challenges for kids with ADHA, dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorders, and other deficits. It can also impact executive functioning skills. Poor recall of instructions, directions, and class lectures occurs when a student has deficiencies in registering information in short-term memory. Processing and retaining information is necessary to achieve academic success; supporting students with multi-step homework begins with understanding the components of slow-processing speed.

About the author

Vikki Carrel

Academic Language Therapist, Multi-book Author, National Speaker

Vikki empowers people! She is an Academic Language Therapist, multi-book author and a national speaker. Vikki grew up in Salt Lake City, met her husband at the University of Utah, and has owned several companies across the United States. In 2010, Vikki and her husband moved back to Utah from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and she founded Vikki Carrel & Company, a speaking and training organization. Read more about the Author

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