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Finding the Right Intervention to Increase Processing Speed

Finding the right intervention to help your child increase his processing speed and writing skills is worth the effort. There are multiple issues to consider, including visual processing, fine motor skills, and language organization skills. When I think of the students that have high verbal skills and slow processing speed I often use the image of a funnel. The funnel is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Like sand flowing through a funnel, your child’s thoughts flow freely at the top of funnel, but need to consolidate and get in a linear form to get out the bottom of the funnel. Strong verbal skills provide a tremendous vocabulary that enriches the ability to communicate ideas. However, the struggle for the hand to form the letters on paper causes many students to write down only the basics of their idea, or to try to write the whole idea and never finish due to fatigue.

When children with high verbal skills and slow processing speed are required to take their ideas and push them through this funnel it becomes a laborious process. The funnel represents the process of taking the mental images and ideas and translating them into words on the page. It is the translation from the language center to the motor center that creates the difficulty. If you could look at the different parts of their brain, you would find that these children would most likely have highly developed language centers along with poorly developed motors sectors. Many teachers do not understand how difficult this is for a child.

An IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) with a 504 is a good idea to consider. When the WISC-IV Verbal Comprehension Index score is significantly different than the Processing Speed Index score students can benefit from extra time on tests. The difference between the Index scores indicates that the child is able to communicate ideas verbally, but that his visual-motor processing skills are slow. Therefore, this child needs extra time on visual-motor tasks to allow him to get his ideas down on paper. I would also ask for modifications on homework and in-class writing assignments, so that the student only has to do enough to show he has grasped the concepts. Allowing the student to dictate extra practice materials is another option.

 Finding the best professional help to build processing speed and writing skills is trickier. The types of professional services you can use are:

Occupational therapy to work on building the fine motor skills for writing.

  1. The amount of effort it takes students to write makes the whole writing process laborious. The frustrating part for the students is that they have the ideas but it’s too much work to communicate them.

  2.  I recommend the Retrain the Brain program along with Handwriting Without Tears.

  3. An occupational therapist has additional tools that can be used to build the hand muscles needed for fluent writing.

Vision Therapy, if visual tracking is an issue.

Educational specialists, tutors or a speech and language therapist can help with organizing language and writing skills. The writing skills that a student with this profile needs to learn,  includes pre-writing skills to help him organize his ideas before he writes.

  1. Mind maps or advanced organizers such as graphical organizers are great tools.

    1.  In other words, we want to take the grand ideas that the student has and get them onto paper.

    2. This process alone will alleviate a lot of stress on the student.

  1.  Once the ideas are on paper, they can be numbered in the order the student wants to present them in his final paper.

  2. You can use the format from my 5 paragraph essay worksheets and modify them for writing one paragraph. Once one paragraph has been mastered, you can start on two paragraphs. The goal is to get the ideas out so that the student can look at and work with his thoughts without becoming overwhelmed.

It is important to remember that when you are building new pathways in the brain, daily practice is necessary. This means to really build the fine motor skills and/or eye muscles you need to do the exercises daily. It will only take 5 to10 minutes of daily exercises for most students to develop increased productivity within six months.

I also think educating teachers is important so they can understand what your child is experiencing. Share any articles you like that explain the issue your child is having, along with the testing results, so the teacher realizes this is not an issue of lack of effort, but a real learning challenge. Your communication with the teacher will also allow her to become part of your team. Letting teachers know that you understand that your child is struggling and that you are actively working to get help for him, will allow the teacher to know she has your support and that you don’t expect her to do all the work alone. Building a successful educational team that works and communicates together is the best intervention.

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