Helping a Child Who Has ADHD and Slow Processing Speed

A 7 years old boy doing his homework with his mom
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It isn’t at all uncommon for kids with ADHD to take somewhat longer to complete tasks especially when the assignment is cognitively challenging. This doesn’t have anything to do with ​the level of intelligence, rather it may have to do with processing speed — the speed at which the student processes and response to the information.

Written expression can also be quite a challenge for a student with ADHD, due to several possible factors. These may include slow processing speed; problems retrieving information in a timely fashion because of working memory impairments; difficulty organizing thoughts and getting them down on paper; and challenges with handwriting due to poor fine motor coordination.

As a result, a student may take a lot longer than most classmates to get work completed and may produce less work overall as compared to his classmates. It could also be that your child is struggling to keep his focus and concentration at a level where he can successfully complete work.

Classroom Modifications to Help

Your child's difficulty may be caused by a number of learning issues, so be sure to talk with the teacher to sort out where the breakdown is occurring. Below are some general classroom modifications that may also help:

  1. Ask the teacher to shorten or reduce the number of written assignments.
  2. Allow for extended time on assignments and tests.
  3. If handwriting is slow and labored and seems to be related to cursive writing only, allow the student to print.
  4. Allow use of a computer.
  5. If helpful, allow the student the opportunity to give oral reports or make a project illustrating work in place of a written report.
  6. Make sure instructions and directions for written assignments are brief; repeat them for the student as needed.
  7. Provide written instructions that are concise and clear.
  8. Schedule more difficult in-class written assignments earlier in the day.
  9. Break down or divide written assignments into smaller, more manageable segments
  10. Increase level of adult supervision to monitor progress regularly on each step of the assignment.
  11. Help student take “energy breaks” while working on assignments, allowing the student to get up and move around and re-energize and then get back to work.

In addition, be sure to talk openly with your child about feeling overwhelmed at school. Include him in the strategizing and planning process about ways to make schoolwork more manageable. You may also want to share your concerns with your son's doctor.

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Article Sources

  • Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, M.S., Teaching Teens With ADD, ADHD, & Executive Function Deficits (Second Edition). Woodbine House 2011.