Information Processing Difficulties
Information processing difficulties are related to how the brain processes and understands information the senses have gathered. This is not related to a physical problem or intellectual disorder. The processing difficulties may be associated with:
- Visual Processing Difficulties
- Motor Difficulties
- Visual Motor Integration Difficulties
- Working Memory Difficulties
- Auditory Processing Difficulties (Short Term Auditory Memory)
- A combination of any of the above
Visual Processing Difficulties: refers to a reduced ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes. This is different from problems involving sight or sharpness of vision. Difficulties with visual processing affect how visual information is interpreted or processed. The child may be unable to synthesise and analyse visually presented information accurately or fast enough. Children with visual processing difficulties may be easily distracted and find visual stimulation very hard to understand and process.
Useful information can be found at:
Motor difficulties: Children with motor difficulties may have problems with movement and coordination with fine motor skills (cutting, writing) or gross motor skills (running, jumping). Motor difficulties are sometimes referred to as an ‘output’ activity i.e. relating to the output of information from the brain. A referral to Occupational Therapist is recommended for Motor difficulties.
Visual Motor Integration Difficulties: Visual-motor integration is eye-hand coordination, and is required for tasks such as writing and copying material, handwriting/cursive, pencil-paper tasks, copying from the board, and drawing. Children with visual motor integration difficulties often have difficulties in their ability to keep up with written work.
Working Memory Difficulties: Children with working memory difficulties have problems holding information in ‘temporary storage’ or working with it – for example, difficulty in remembering and following instructions, or forgetting what has recently been said, or getting things in the wrong order, or needing to write everything down to avoid forgetting it.
Auditory Processing Difficulties: Children with auditory processing difficulties generally do not have a hearing impairment and often have similar hearing to other normal hearing students. Difficulties occur when the student tries to process the sound, either to hear and understand the signal or when trying to form a response (please click to go to information about Auditory Processing Difficulties)
Children identified as having ‘information processing difficulties’, often have problems 'holding' information mentally, particularly in a busy classroom environment, and may be slow to follow verbal information, requiring repetition. The child may misunderstand or miss instructions, particularly when there is background noise.
Often children with information processing difficulties do not remember instructions if too much information is given at once and compensatory strategies such as point form instructions are recommended.
Children may experience difficulties with peer relationships due to problems following and responding appropriately to quick verbal exchanges. Additional support such as social skills programs, counselling or mentoring may be beneficial.
Children frequently have problems with knowing 'where to start a task' and appear disorganised. Developing a regular routine and a clear step-by-step approach to tasks is important.
Children with 'information processing difficulties' often feel overloaded within the classroom or during homework and become distracted, thus a highly structured routine and a predictable learning environment is recommended.
A child may be slow copying information because she/he can’t 'hold' as much information mentally as another child. For older children the use of a 'table top' model, i.e. provision of a written copy on his/her desk, is recommended.
A child may experience difficulty in learning a second language, and sometimes it may be beneficial to allocate the time to consolidating work in other subjects, such as improving literacy skills.
- Post a daily schedule with pictures and try and maintain the daily routine
- Mazes and puzzles E.g. Interactive mazes
- Use lesson point form instruction and lesson plans
- Give extra time for writing and provide copies of lesson notes
- Keep visual distractions to a minimum
- Use study carrels to decrease stimuli
- Provide organized storage space, containers, and shelves to put all items away
For Younger Children
- Use tape, hula hoops or carpet squares to reinforce personal boundaries in seated learning or play areas
- Guide the child’s finger under the line in school-work and cover areas of the page not currently working on
- Use visual cues such as words or pictures for organizing personal belongings, containers, or shelves
- Tape alphabet and number strips on a child's desk for them to use as a reference or guide
- Adjust furniture so children sit with feet flat on the floor and hips bent at a 90 degrees
- If a child is easily distracted ensure his/her seat is away from doorways or windows
- Allow the child to work in a variety of positions such as lying flat on the floor propped on elbows or standing at a table
- Encourage gross and fine motor physical activities
- Seek assessment and support from an occupational therapist if possible
For Younger Children
- If possible provide some alternate furniture such as a rocking chair, bean bags and/or a hammock or swing chair outside the classroom
- Build fine motor skills through activities e.g. clay modelling, construction, cutting, drawing (tasks requiring small precise hand and finger movements)
- Build gross motor skills through activities: Whole body actions involving pushing, pulling, lifting and moving; Carrying objects with some weight; Pushing or pulling objects: Jumping and bouncing E.g. on a trampoline
- Use carpet squares for each child when sitting on the floor
- Tracing tasks with tracing paper, mazes and puzzles E.g. Interactive mazes
- Avoid visually complex worksheets; If the worksheet is complex, have the student cover up all the problems except the one s/he is working on with a white piece of paper to reduce overwhelming visual information
- Allow the use of cursive or print on written assignments
- Shorten work tasks (strive for quality, not quantity)
- Teach word processing skills so the student can learn compensatory strategies for handwriting assignments
- For students who have become resistant to writing and copying make modifications such as having a peer note taker, providing copies of the notes, giving extra time to complete assignments, and letting the student type, record, or give answers orally instead of in writing
- Acknowledge that the student is having a difficult time (E.g. 'Yes, I know writing is hard for you and when writing takes that much effort, it can make you feel tired or frustrated')
- Encourage Tripod Pencil Grip, see Handwriting and Pencil Grip
For Younger Children
- Build fine motor skills through activities E.g. clay modelling, construction, cutting, drawing (tasks requiring small precise hand and finger movements)
Support from Occupational Therapy Services MAY be appropriate to support Motor and Visual Motor Processing Difficulties: E.g. M.O.T.A. operates in North Carlton, Victoria offering Occupational Therapy services for children from birth to 18 years of age. The Occupational Therapists at MOTA can provide services within the clinic, home and school environments. For more information go to: http://www.melbourneot.com/
- Understanding and following a sequence of instructions can be disproportionately difficult – give instructions one at a time, and offer to repeat information
- Use visual information to support auditory information
- Instructions should be presented in chunks; in simple language and short; check the child has heard the instruction and ask the child to repeat the instructions
- Use of headings and sub-headings helps to provide a structure for oral as well as written responses
- Prompt listening skills with ‘tell me what I said’ or 'tell me what you have to do'
- Check that the child is on task and has understood what is being taught once the class is working
- General use of SMART strategies: expectations and tasks that are:
S Short, specific
T within a Time frame
Jungle Memory is a training program that helps develop children's working memory capacity. An 8 week subscription gives online access to a range of interactive games designed to improve working memory, priced at $49.99 US. For more information go to: http://junglememory.com/pages/how_it_works
Memory problems which impact on learning are not limited to 'Working Memory'. Memory difficulties are complex and multifaceted. A range of tips and techniques for improving memory can be found on the HelpGuide site.
(please click to go to information about Auditory Processing Difficulties)
‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk’ and ‘How to Talk so Kids can Learn’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish