ACCESS-ABILITY ACCESS-ABILITY_Vol1_Issue4 - Page 44

IN A FLASH Processing speed refers to the time it takes a person to register information (i.e., what we see and hear), think about it, and respond. The way this process operates varies from person to person, and from task to task. A good analogy for processing speed is a factory conveyor belt; as an item is manufactured, workers or machines make changes as it moves along the belt, and at the end there is a result or product. A person?s processing speed has nothing to do with intelligence, just as a slow conveyor belt can yield the same product as a fast one. The main issue is efficiency for meeting real-world demands in real time. Many students feel unintelligent and become overwhelmed when their pace for processing information and responding does not match the environment. For example, some students struggle to demonstrate their potential on timed tests, not because they don?t understand the content, but because it takes them more time than their peers to process the information. Some students become overloaded with too much input occurring too quickly. Others are stressed getting their ideas out fast enough. To parents and teachers, this may look like low motivation, inattention, or disorganization. Conversely, other factors such as concurrent inattention, disorganization, emotional arousal, etc., can amplify processing speed issues, like a conveyor belt that isn?t running smoothly. When this occurs, students often hit a roadblock, which may lead to avoidance, undesirable behavior, and negative emotions. It is important to note that appropriate identification of processing speed issues requires information from multiple sources, because true problems typically have a wide impact in multiple areas of functioning. Some assessment measures (i.e., the Wechsler tests that psychologists use) even have domains called ?processing speed,? but that singular measure is insufficient. Comprehensive assessments synthesize information from multiple types of tests, information from parents, teacher reports, and so on. WHAT HELPS? Some supports are environmental. Many students require extended time to complete tasks on which it more important to demonstrate mastery. Other supports help alleviate the load that the student is holding in a mental workspace or the demands for juggling multiple tasks simultaneously. For example, rather than holding a sequence of steps in mind while executing each step, some students benefit from visual aids that externalize the sequence. Organizational supports, such as models or templates could also increase a slower pace of providing output. Other supports are centered more on the individual?s self-awareness and advocacy. It is important that students differentiate their personal pace from their abilities, which requires adult coaching. Students can also be taught socially appropriate, situationally useful ?pauses? that give them time to think before responding, rather than feeling overwhelmed.