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  • Any experience of Slow Processing Speed in children
  • reeksy
    Full Member

    Yeah, I know, any parent knows what it’s like trying to get kids to put their shoes and socks on when they’re little. This is a bit different. It’s also quite hard for me to explain, so apologies for the ramble.

    We noticed one of my lads school marks being uncharacteristically low. He’d been accelerated a year because tasks were too easy/boring. Looking closer we could see the low marks were particularly in speed-related tasks (there seems to be an obsession with doing fast times tables at his school). He started coming home from school quite frustrated and saying he was bored.

    We wondered if he needed to drop back a year … but took him to an educational psych in the middle of last year, she gave us and his teacher questionnaires to complete, then spent a decent amount of time with him interviewing and doing tasks.

    In the tests he did really well … except for processing speed where he tanked. Outcome said he’s gifted, highly creative, but has problems with doing things at speed. There’s no signs of any ADHD or other such things.

    We were advised to work with the school to develop a plan with recommendations. They’ve been supportive, but things don’t really seem to be working – i understand it’s hard for them to do things differently for one kid.

    Apparently as people get older slow processing can become more notceable and problematic. Six months on and he’s coming home from school exhausted and on a hair trigger. The slightest thing will set him off – and I mean OFF. He claims the other kids think he’s different to them (none of this is shared). His behaviour has changed from easygoing, funny and cheerful to the kind of thing I thought we wouldn’t have to deal with until he was well into high school. We think he’s basically struggling all day to get through and then melts down.

    Tasks he just can’t complete at school because of the chaos of the process of getting things from his head onto a screen, he can sit down with his Mum and complete with no trouble (he did 6 maths lessons in the time for 1 the other day if she just did the typing for him).

    Anyway, I feel bad spilling this out, but I’d be really interested if anyone else has encountered anything similar and found any workarounds. Currently we’re considering whether we’ll need to homeschool.

    Full Member

    How old is he? Maybe that’s an Aus thing but speed isn’t a major factor in the UK. Not sure I understand that he’s been moved ahead a year and then he’s struggling with the work and now you’re thinking of moving him back to where he should be? Surely if that’s the case he’s missed out on a year of progression and the key learning outcomes that comes with it? Or am I missing something?

    Free Member

    I thought it was pretty clear. Minireeksy can do the work, in certain situations IE with a scribe and non chaotic conditions. He can smash it out. But quick fire situations he gets marked down.

    No idea OP but you can tell him not to worry about times tables fast. I have most of a maths degree and an engineering degree.

    I still do the 9times table on my hands.

    Full Member

    In almost all classes I teach there is someone with extra time in exams. Normally 25%. 1 in 30

    It’s quite normal to have a kid who needs a scribe in tests and exams. Maybe one kid in every 3 classes. 1 in 90

    There are plenty of people out there in the same boat.

    Has the school got a senco:? Talk to them

    Full Member

    (there seems to be an obsession with doing fast times tables at his school)

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t learning your times tables just a memorization exercise? That’s how I remember it at least.

    Once you’d learned the table you would then get asked random numbers and then you’d have to find the nearest number you could actually remember and then silently recite the table in your head until you got to the number you needed.

    Sorry, I know it’s not really relevant to what you’re talking about here but it’s one of my issues with schools in general that unless you have a label the schools will desperately try to cram round shaped kids into square shaped holes. It’s only once the kid has a label that they feel like they can make allowances.

    Full Member

    Dyslexia? Though i was different as i rushed everything and as such would miss words out and have illegible hand writing

    Full Member

    We are going through something pretty similar w Epic junior. Has always struggled a bit with exams, but seemed to be doing fine. In lower 6 (year 12) that started raising some questions w a teacher who felt he wasn’t filling his potential and we’ve done the ed psych thing and have a call w learning support this morning.

    He is very bright with conceptual and verbal ideas, but his processing is slower (assimilation and recall) hence struggles in exam situations. I’m hoping to hear about how learning support can give him some work arounds to address the processing, and if his subject teachers know about that issue they can take that into account in lessons.
    He seems to be positive about the process as it gives him some understanding why he sometimes struggles, and that it’s not laziness, which is what some of the feedback from scholl had implied earlier.

    As BruceWee says, there are different learning styles, and I guess w grades and league tables some schools focus on grades and not individual pupils’ needs. For epic junior ed psych isn’t good at rote learning, but that’s what school exams have become, and that the skills he has will shine more at uni/irl where problem solving and creativity are more useful. Just got to get through the next 18 months….

    Just learning about this at the moment, but happy to chat on DMs

    Good luck to mini-reeksy, hopefully they can help him see he’s an individual with unique skills and just slightly different style of learning

    Full Member

    As above, it’s not unusual. I’m a case in hand and would describe my self as a “slow thinker” whereas my work in software has always been a case of “I just get it” rather then being able to learn and study in the traditional manner.

    I walked out of eduction with 5 c grade gsces and a constant naivety in life because of it, but you can tell Jnr there’s a place for everyone. My advice; give him the space he needs and find a way to embrace his talent – just becuase he’s one side of the average system doesnt mean he isn’t a little genius ready to explore the world with his talent. People are chess pieces, not draughts…

    It can also be personality e.g. being a shy introvert or carrying anxieties can cause a barrier to fast thinking, see “system 1” here: because of a lack of confidence.

    Full Member

    The speed tables will fall away.

    I think they’re a bit of a challenge / race to get the kids to commit to learning the times tables well to beat the clock/their friends/their best score.

    My mum (retired teacher of maths) did some research around maths teaching that might be relevant. I’m seeing her this weekend so I’ll show her the thread. If I don’t post or PM you back feel free to PM me a chaser on Sunday.  🙂

    Full Member

    I agree maybe dyslexia might be worth exploring – though you’d think the educational physc would have picked it up. I’m dyslexic, and a Professor, but find anything at speed challenging.

    Full Member

    I’ve got a daughter with this. Super bright, works hard but didn’t like reading, found it a lot easier to read with a blue overlay. We took her for a private dyslexia assessment, which came back as dyslexic but with really slow processing speed. This has enabled her to get extra time in her exams. The result is her grades have shot up from good to excellent.

    Free Member

    Not quite the same situation but my eldest 2 both had an issue with churning through questions at speed in an exam setting. They would both spend all their time answering the stuff they were 100% confident on at the expense of ‘just having a go’ at the questions they were not sure about. Both achieveing or over achieving across the board otherwise, based on seemingly nothing the school got the eldest additional time for exams, and they are doing the same for no.2 now so as mentioned by posters above its worth asking about that

    Full Member

    There’s no signs of any ADHD or other such things

    A second opinion would be worthwhile on neurodiversity and learning difficulties. Some so called professionals are woefully incompetent in this area. Subtle signs of conditions can be overlooked.

    That said, if he’s a year younger than his peers that could make a real difference too

    Full Member

    One of the brightest people I knew at university (hi Doug!) was like that. Couldn’t answer simple questions at speed but had great insight into complex problems. He got a first and went on to be a very successful engineer getting to a very senior level.

    Full Member

    My son was claver at school but, like your son, a bit slow at getting things done. He’s 23 and much the same. His problem is his mind drifts then he’s off doing something ‘else’ in his head. We never got a diagnosis at school, came out with reasonable marks. He’s an IT engineer now, but sitting behind the help desk is an issue. He’s discussed it with his current employers and he’s back on a more active role – visiting clients and fixing/setting up machines. He’s seen the GP about ADHD so that’s now going to be a long process to get diagnosed.

    We, and his friend group, think he has it. He’s a genius at some stuff – show him a car engine and he will pull it to bits and re-build his cat to a track car – he’s converted his Fabia 1.2 into a 1.4 with about 190 bhp. But he struggles with mundane tasks, or doing the same thing for ages. He also struggled with getting things down on paper at school !

    Sounds similar TBH. Mood could be as a direct result of struggling with certain things when he’s already very bright – must be frustraiting.

    Full Member

    Sounds a bit like me.

    “Fast thinking for simple tasks” I struggled with, and hated (still do) times tables and mental arithmetic.

    Learning “concepts” and understanding / working out genuinely complex problems though I’m good at.

    I still can’t do several of the times tables without conscious effort and sometimes working out. Didn’t stop me getting an engineering degree and having a successful (so far) career in Engineering.

    TL:DR – we’re all different. Enable / encourage him to play to his strengths and find workarounds for less strong areas.

    Free Member

    I can’t offer any direct advice but have two anecdotal points that may or may not be interesting:

    – there was a kid in my son’s primary school class who was “a year ahead”. He was undoubtedly bright but impossible to mask to the others that he was “different” and “stood out”. Whilst academically he was better than everyone he socially didn’t have the experience of life (which seems odd a 7 but was quite apparent). He did great until he was about 14 then other kids started catching him up and his distinguishing feature was no longer there. He still did very well at School but I can’t imagine his transition to university was easy as he probably wasn’t the smartest kid in class anymore, and was socially immature.

    – kids who are struggle a little bit to get a concept actually have a life lesson that is useful across all sorts of subjects. Naturally gifted kids don’t really learn how to learn they soak stuff up like a sponge. Then they are presented with a challenge – like “can you do that but do it much faster” and they don’t know how to “train” for that. Originally I thought our kids maths classes were ridiculous as they seemed to spend ages learning the same subject over and over. When I quizzed the teacher they were supposed to be using different techniques to reach the same answer so they learned that some people find some ways easier, some problems find somethings easier etc. We had probably reinforced the wrong behaviour at home by encouraging the use of “the simplest method”.

    – I only know one child who was homeschooled. From that data point of one, I’d need an amazingly compelling reason to even consider it for one of my children. I think their mum (a teacher) did a pretty good job and involved them in various clubs and activities to get them socialised.

    Full Member

    Would be interested ahsat if you had any workarounds that allowed you to cope with situations where speed is important – eg exam scenarios where time pressure seems to make my lad a little panicked and loses focus

    Full Member

    @susepic I can try but I’m afraid I don’t think I have clear answer. Even now I still struggle with speed tasks (@p20 can attest to seeing panic in my face when I struggle!), but I am old enough to ask for the time to do things slower. As a kid, for me the big advantage was getting 25% extra time in all exams from the age of 15, to give the extra thinking time. Though I still struggled in exams to a degree and never achieved my full academic potential in terms of exam grades. For me, my grades were much, much stronger in all longer form pieces of work – particularly excelling in larger school projects, my Uni dissertation etc. I don’t think, sadly, I developed a magic solution, just the capacity to ask for more time, or accept where my strengths/weaknesses lay (and using a calculator!). That, I do realise, is much easier to say at the age of 38!

    I also did a lot of primary school with a patch over my ‘good eye’ to correct a squint and did part time school for 6 months due to Glandular Fever. As a result of the latter, even now I can’t do my 6, 7, 8 and 9 times tables.

    When I got made Professor, my Mum wrote something quite powerful which I don’t mind sharing. I hope that it provides some reassurance that your kids will find their feet in something too.

    “To all parents of young children, please enjoy their journey…our little girl was born with no sight in one eye, she had surgery, weekly hospital appointments, found reading, writing and spelling hard to grasp. Education was a constant challenge, she put in more hours than most, as it took more hours than most. We balanced that with outdoor fun, mud, huge hikes and loads of exploring the natural world. As young parents we worried, we tried to research ways of helping her, she had additional help at school, we were always thinking what else could we do to make it easier for her, to help her hop over or smash through ‘the barriers and the negatives’ that were put in her way. Yes, we laid some good foundations but our daughter faced her educational differences, she faced her anxieties that came with her diagnosis, as a woman she has 100% achieved this for herself. So parents reading this, calm yourselves, it’s not all about attainments, it’s about a well-balanced childhood ❤️“

    Full Member

    “he’s coming home from school exhausted and on a hair trigger. The slightest thing will set him off – and I mean OFF.”

    This sounds exactly like one of my children. His peers had noticed it too and used to deliberately trigger him to get him into trouble, which led to internal exclusions and was getting increasingly serious. Long story short, he has now been diagnosed with an ASD and things have improved immeasurably, particularly in the way he is handled by the school. So, as said above, it might be worth a second opinion with regard to neurodiversity.

    The obsession with maths timetable speed is apparent in secondary school. In year 7, Sparx Maths has them doing timetable questions as quickly as possible and moving them up and down bands according to response speed. If he drops a band because of a slow average response, it’s usually demotivating.

    Full Member

    There may be ASD or ADD in there somewhere.
    Important things. Making sure school and teachers are aware but please do it in an understanding way, in a week I see 140+ pupils, knowing and understanding their individual needs is nigh on impossible and things get missed.
    In Scotland I’d say you need that medical diagnosis to guarantee the extra time otherwise it’s a yearly battle with supported and unsupported testing.
    With processing it’s practice and extra time. The way exams work don’t really allow or enable work around. As a parent you need to be understanding and supportive of child and to an extent school but absolutely push if bullying happens and cajole if they are missing needs.
    We/I try to set up longer term learning tasks that bring the skills needed in but for it to work best support from home helps.
    There is also the possibility that his brain is processing too much, too many stimuli. I’d guess it’s a noisy environment. I share a class of S2 and there’s a pupils who does quite well with me but terribly with the other teacher the only difference is my class is calm and I’m the chaos (although talk low so they have to listen) where her class is quite chaotic and she’s loud. The pupil in question had some success with ear “buds”, just removed some of the over stimulus.

    It is noticable, in the other class when he doesn’t wear them.


    Full Member

    @ashat the room here just got very dusty… thanks for sharing.

    My son has had difficulties with education and secondary school has been really tough, one of his issues is an auditory delay, which has meant mainstream teaching has been problematic.
    The coming home from school tired and on a knife edge is very familiar. Just recognise that they need space to decompress, it took me a long time to realise this and i still beat myself up about trying to push him on when i should really just have been putting my arms around him.
    Luckily he’s forgiven me and we have a great relationship now. We really do put too much pressure on kids academically.
    He will get more time and a scribe for some of his GCSEs this summer, i’m genuinely gob smacked that he has gor himself into a position to be sitting exams this year. The right environment makes such a difference!

    I was quite academic as a kid, but I’m not great at exams. They are such a weird tool to assess kids by, as a professional i dont need to be able reguritate equations off the top of my head. Weird time pressure nonsense.

    Full Member

    As a teacher in secondary and currently prepping kids for N5, H and AH exams you’re preaching to the converted about the falseness of an examination.
    Fortunately the SQA have recognized this and are working to replace the exams with written timed assessments.

    Free Member

    It seems like there is possibly more going on, but this could be an example of “relative age effect”. Most studies done on children’s age within a school year suggest that being young within a school year is a significant disadvantage, both socially and academically. That effect has been identified for children born in the same year, so if your boy is more than a year younger than his classmates, it’s likely to be even more pronounced.

    The effect can be seen in academic performance, mental health and sporting performance. The majority of elite athletes have birthdays late in the year.

    Full Member

    Six months on and he’s coming home from school exhausted and on a hair trigger.

    Not an expert in any of this, but given that he has been moved up a year and his performance is being discussed as a potential problem on here, could it be that the expectation of his performance, and the need to live up to it, is becoming an issue for him?

    For me, if there’s things that can be improved, then by all means look into them. We all want our kids to have the best opportunities, but sometimes that means supporting them in their differences so they be confident as they are, rather than trying to iron those differences out. Pretty sure there are numerous studies showing that putting pressure or too much praise on high performance becomes detrimental to education.

    Full Member

    Might not be slow processing speed, and more slow translating speed. Their understanding might be high and just need time to translate their understanding into words.

    Full Member

    Thanks ahsat for taking the time to respond, and you’re an inspiring role model showing that we’re all different and can achieve our potential in many different ways.
    Also interesting to hear responses from others who have also come through the other side; it’s a shame that it sometimes feels like kids’ potential is only assessed on the outcomes of exams.

    Apologies to reeksy as well for piggy backing his question.

    For my lad, they’re going to give him the 25% extra time, and spend time with him looking at techniques to breakdown complex ideas into smaller chunks so he is not so overwhelmed. But as ashat says, there will be hard work associated with it too.

    The important thing for me is that the recognition that he has some challenges that were holding him up (rather than a sense from some teachers that he wasn’t working hard enough) has brightened his mood no end – less defensive and more open. For Reeksy, please keep working to understand the issues, because once you have some strategies it will make your lad’s life easier I hope

    Best wishes to all

    Full Member

    Thanks for the responses. Had a good weekend. Got called the best Dad ever when I took him for a kick about. Went to get him a Lego Ninjago kit that he was after. Out of stock, so he picked another (cheaper) one, built it up, then rebuilt it into the one that he was originally after using other pieces. Then made stop-motion films with it. Happy as a pig in shit.

    As it happens, Mini Reeksy is away on school camp for a week* (will be interesting to see how he feels when he comes back) which gives us some space to think about next steps. We met with another psychologist this morning who specialises in gifted education for some tips and strategies. One suggestion i liked was to get him to exercise before school to help keep the frustration under control… there’s not much time but we might manage something.

    Mrs Reeksy has identified one of the issues is that virtually all of the work is iPad screen-based and involves moving from page to page, googling, etc. His test results showed him above 90th percentile across everything – except for processing speed. One of the issues with creativity may be that it makes practical attention issues difficult (I recognise that in myself I think)

    There’s definitely no ADHD, ASD or dyslexia.

    Has the school got a senco:? Talk to them

    Done that already. Well meaning but ultimately not much progress. As others have said, i think their focus is elsewhere. Apparently they will only give an extra 10 mins per hour in exams, even though we’ve been recommended 15 mins. We’ll see if that works.

    Sometimes he’ll comment that he’s just remembered that xyz is due tomorrow… I find it staggering just how much the school expects kids to be able to plan ahead given their age. But we’re trying to get better access to the dates ahead of time so we can support him breaking things into chunks.

    The slowness is common with ‘gifted’ kids apparently because they’re perfectionists – definitely something I’ve noticed with him.

    There is also the possibility that his brain is processing too much, too many stimuli. I’d guess it’s a noisy environment.

    I think that is something that affects him @onehundredthidiot. He’s talked about it being a problem in the past. Might look into those earbuds … although he may think it brings unwanted attention.

    – glad to hear your epic kid is on the right track!

    As for pressure. I don’t think we put pressure on him. He quite actively seeks challenges when he’s engaged.

    it would be interesting to hear about the maths research as that’s an area he really excels in … except for when it’s 90 questions in 60 seconds nonsense.

    *Aussie schools do this from a young age … at the school our kids go to in Y10 they go for a month(!) and have to fend for themselves with no contact allowed with home.

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