Helping a Child with Processing Problems

Children with processing problems need to learn things at a much slower pace than other kids. They can learn, it just has to come at them at a speed they can handle. It will be up to the teacher to adjust that flow. The good news is that even though you have to start painfully slow, the child reaches a place where things click and then accelerate rapidly.

Here is the basic process for teaching a child with processing problems. As I mentioned in my last post, the problem can be with input, internal processing, or with output. It will help if you can determine where the process breaks down so you know where to slow down and where you can speed up.

  1. Allow touch and feel time. When introducing a new task, let the child play with the materials to be used. If the processing problem is in the input stage, then becoming familiar with the look and feel of the materials will allow them to process the sensory input separate from the mental process of learning. If your child is the one who always wants to touch something or can’t keep her hands off the new manipulatives, that’s a big clue that sensory input is important to her, and she may have a problem with sensory integration (SI).
  2. Demonstrate the task. This can be done with or without verbalization. You can start without verbalization, but at some point you need to explain what you are doing. This gives the child the big picture of what you are asking them to do. When they understand the big picture, then they can make sense of the small steps it takes to get there.
  3. Demonstrate with the child as helper. The next step is to have your child help you with the task. You will be the main worker, but your child will help with the parts he is able.
  4. Let the child do it. Now turn the job over to the child. Let him do the task, with you giving verbal instructions. If the task is complex, he may only be able to do the first step or two before his processing breaks down. That is fine. Back up a step and let him become the helper again for the rest of the task. If the task is simple, he may be able to get all the way through it with only verbal prompts.
  5. Mastery. No matter how long it takes, work toward mastery.  Be patient as your teach your child. He will thank you many times over for not only teaching him a valuable skill, but making him feel smart in the process.

A word of warning: You may be stuck in some of these steps for months at a time. For example, learning to do the dishes is a very complex task. You may have to teach him to clear the table, then load the top rack, then load the bottom rack, then the silverware, then the pots and pans, and so on. Each one of those steps may take weeks to master. Be patient. Remember the snowball effect. Once you teach your child to master one set of skills, it makes the next skill set that much easier.

(c) 2010 Stephanie Buckwalter

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