My son takes very long at copying, eats very slowly, writes very slowly and basically is slow at almost everything.
Last night, I spent 3+ hours with him just write out the first draft (one page only) together with him for his compo. I am so frustrated that I want to vomit blood. He takes 1.5 hours to eat every meal. I am struggling every single weekday just to finish up all the tasks for that day, before his bedtime at 10pm. Often we have to stretch to 11pm just to finish up his schoolwork, or just to finish up the milk etc sighs.
His cognitive ability test seems to indicate that his processing speed is just a third of his working memory.
Any parents can offer any good strategies to improve processing speed?
I totally empathise! I have a slow processing speed daughter, and she also struggled through school. She also has Asperger’s, low working memory and dyspraxia, to complicate matters! The good news is that although some basic things can’t be changed, you can maximise what there is (my daughter graduated from university this year, and has a job! She didn’t do particularly well, and her job is a low-key one which we helped her choose to suit her limitations, but she’s come much further than we expected).
I think the main thing is to accept that the basic processing speed is something that you cannot change, but there are things that can make it less of a problem in daily life and schoolwork. It seems worst in the earlier years as there is so much to master, and it all seems to be such basic stuff which most people don’t have issues with. If you use the analogy of a computer, processing speed is like the computer’s processing chip – if you have a slow one, there’s really nothing you can do to speed it up. But you can choose the software you use and design the tasks to optimise the what you have.
So some of the things that I have learnt with my daughter:
– assess the task and simplify.
If eating and drinking are taking too long, make it simple (nothing too difficult to handle), and remove all distractions. My daughter has dyspraxia which made her clumsier at handling cutlery etc, so I also made sure she had “easier” food when she was young. If it’s just inattention and general bad attitude, I would set a timer and throw away the food after a set time. If the child is hungry, they will learn to eat faster!
If schoolwork is taking too long, again, see if different stationery, removal of distractions, etc could help.
– intensively teach things that could speed things up.
See what is causing more difficulty, and take time to teach intensively, and get in a lot of practice. Writing, using cutlery, even drawing lines with a ruler! Do it during weekends and holidays, not in the evenings when you are already in a hurry. Also set routines – this makes the thinking load less as the child can do things from ingrained memory. If it helps, write out the list of things and post them in prominent places – at the dining table for meals, in the bathroom for those routines, above the desk for schoolwork routines, in the bedroom for dressing routines… Some kids do better with pictorial lists – use pictures in sequence instead of words.
– practise a lot.
Whatever can be memorised, get him to memorise! That includes a series of actions to accomplish a task – like setting out stationery, writing the date, writing the question no. … anything that is repetitive and has to be done every time. “Memorising” is looked down on these days, but all of us have a basic set of knowledge and habits that have been memorised. Who actually thinks about morning routines – wash face, brush teeth, comb hair etc on a daily basis? We are fast because we have ingrained the routine and practised it daily. So see what can be “routinised” for your child and get it ingrained. Do this for some schoolwork as well – number bonds, multiplication tables, basic spelling – it may take many repetitions, but once memorised, it will help speed things up.
– reduce expectations.
All of us have expectations of what a child of a particular age “should” be able to do, but some kids can’t! My husband and I are high achievers, and it was hard to understand how difficult things were for my daughter. It took a long while for us to realise the issue and we had to intentionally change our expectations. So I allowed using hands to eat for much longer than would be normal, and helped cut food for much longer too (this was mainly due to the dyspraxia, but also helped to speed things up). So instead of “neat writing”, I aimed for “legible writing”, however ugly. You could also speak to the teacher to let her know what you are working on at home, and ask for a little leeway – relaxation of standards, or reduction of tasks. Some teachers are accommodating, some are not. If you have an unhelpful teacher, then learn to be blind and deaf to unhelpful remarks.