We hear the term “processing issues” often when dealing with students, but we often have a hazy understanding of what this means. With all the different information out there, it can be difficult to understand diagnoses and interventions. Below, we endeavor to explore processing issues and discuss possible interventions.
What is a “processing issue?”
If you look at the human mind as a computer, you might think about “processing problems” as a difficulty with input or output of information. In other words, the collecting, gathering, and interpreting of data (input) can be hindered by a problem with processing, as can the response or analysis a student gives (output). If such an issue is present, we may see a student struggling with either input or output or both. It’s important to note here that a difficulty does not mean the student is not trying, but rather that we may need to look into the different types of processing issues than can arise and how they may be affecting the student’s ability to learn.
What are the different types of processing issues?
Visual Information Processing: A very common problem, visual information processing has to do with what a student sees. If we encounter a student who seems to struggle with writing down notes or copying information from the board, that may be a sign of impaired visual-spatial skills. Additionally, you may notice a student skipping lines when reading or mixing up letters and numbers. For a more complete list of warning signs to look for, click here. Although this kind of issue can seem debilitating, as we will see moving forward, there is more than one way to learn, and modifications and accommodations can certainly be made to help students who struggle to process this way.
Auditory Information Processing: Just as some students struggle to process information that they see, others find it difficult to process information that they hear. A student who seems to be unable to follow spoken directions, for example, may not necessarily be defiant; rather, this may be a student physically struggling to input those spoken words. You may also notice that these students tend to have problems with memory retention and paying attention.
When we consider how to help students who have processing issues, it’s important to keep some key thoughts in mind:
Don’t jump to conclusions
In our age of immediate diagnosis, it is important to remember that, just as we should resist labeling a student “lazy” or “oppositional,” with minimal evidence we, too, should resist immediately labeling someone “deficient” in processing. There are a number of tests that can help to assess a student’s processing prowess, and many professionals who can help you understand and interpret the results. Remember that, while it’s tempting to know what’s happening immediately, education is a process and a particular student’s journey may continually evolve as time goes on.
There’s more than one way to learn
Education is not rigid; in fact, more and more, schools and teachers are willing to adapt and make accommodations for those students who learn differently. Just because you might struggle with visual processing does not mean you are doomed to fail in your overall learning experience. Indeed, learning styles are not limited to visual and auditory; some students learn kinesthetically or aurally (through sound and music.) Luckily, teachers are well-versed in the various ways of learning, and are often willing to explore different styles to best serve all students.
Ever since the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act in 1975, schools have been required to provide a “free and appropriate” education to all students. Over time, the act has evolved to cover many learning issues and developmental barriers. Schools are ready and willing to consider Individualized Education Programs (IEP) to help those students who face learning obstacles. Do not hesitate to reach out to school professionals such as counselors and psychologists to determine if there is assistance available to your student.
Written by Phil Lane
Contact us today if you are concerned about your child having processing issues. Our Psychologist can help determine what the next steps should be!