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  • Jennifer Cardinal

Falling Through The Cracks Part Two

A previous blog focused on the frustration parents and students feel at the lack of support given in school settings (and beyond) for processing deficits. Often these deficits are not linked to clinical or educational diagnoses/classifications but cause significant challenges for children and teens. We also see comorbid anxiety in many of these kids which only complicates the picture. The impact is seen in academic struggles including excessive time spent on homework, classwork and tests.

There are many different processing presentations including:

Executive Functioning is a set of cognitive processes that underlie control of behavior including cognitive flexibility, working memory, planning, organization, emotional control, attention and inhibition.

Auditory Processing relates to one’s ability to perceive, analyze, and synthesize auditory stimuli. It includes phonological awareness, resistance to auditory stimuli and memory for sounds.

Processing Speed which reflects how quickly a child can perform cognitive tasks and maintain attention and concentration. (Cognitive efficiency- processing speed and working memory).

When these (and other cognitive processes) are not “attached” to an obvious learning disability or other clinical issue, it is hard to recruit the needed resources in a school setting. Ideally, special education teams would customize learning interventions focused on these particular deficits. For instance, accommodations related to attention could include breaking tasks into smaller subtasks, providing praise when a child is on task or providing self-monitoring checklists. Interventions would include teaching self-monitoring, organization strategies and ways to break large tasked into steps-backward plan.

The Bartow County School system in Georgia produced an excellent review that in addition to what has already been summarized can help you identify more ways to address your child’s issues. It also lists behaviors seen with specific processing presentation. (See the link below SDI chart).

We can’t forget how anxiety impacts processing deficits especially related to processing speed. Over years, when a child has cognitive processing deficits with comorbid anxiousness they can develop chronic anxiety that includes excessive worries, self-consciousness, and “freeze” responses that have a detrimental impact on fluency., has helpful information including ways to work with slow processing speed and anxiety that includes tips like building in extra time, and regrouping to review negative episodes.

Be sure to meet with your child’s teacher to describe your child’s specific struggles and co-occurring anxiety. Advocate for the interventions you believe would help and use the same strategies at home as you help your child. Even without a formal diagnosis, the teacher’s attention will be on your student and the ensuing observations and monitoring of his/her behavior can help determine the need for more formal testing,


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