by Dr. Sherri Singer
Hi Dr. Singer,
My son gets very stressed out in school and it seems to be during times when he cannot figure things out quickly. I’m not sure if the going slow is causing him to stress out or if his stressing out is causing him to move slower on work. Have you seen this before and if so, which direction does it usually go and what do you do to help? L.M.
Yes, I have worked with lots of kids in exactly that situation and usually, it is a little of both. Usually we see a very good prognosis with something like this. Keep in mind that I have not met your child and don’t know the history. This kind of thing usually begins as a processing speed issue/multi-tasking issue that the child is sensitive to. The child realizes that he or she is working more slowly than others around him or her or the child realizes that he or she cannot integrate the information as well as others. That leads to stress which in turn leads to slower performance. It’s like a vicious cycle that needs to be broken in order for the child to feel better and perform better.
I usually start by vigorously training the processing speed, memory and multi-tasking of each child who meets with me. To explain processing speed and memory, I will compare it to RAM and microprocessors in a computer. For those of you that are not computer savvy, RAM stands for Random Access Memory and it is thing that creates the multi-tasking abilities of a computer. Anyone who has ever tried to work with multiple programs at once or multiple “windows” at once on the computer knows what multi-tasking is. A computer with low multi-tasking abilities brings up a screen line by line or stalls out when too many programs are operating. A machine with good RAM can open many windows at once, can display the screen all at once and can handle lots of information at one time. The better or higher the RAM is, the more information the computer can use at the same time. The microprocessor controls the speed of the computer and the better the microprocessor, the faster the computer is at processing the information. Our brains our very similar to this. You have to have the speed and the memory to be able to multi-task and the ability to multi-task flawlessly is what decreases or does away with the stress. That’s really it in basic terms. In fact, I will go as far as saying that most of the kids I have met with for so called “attention” problems are usually having problems with processing speed and memory. When the speed and memory are not as good as they could be, these kids lose interest. They aren’t getting to the end point fast enough and therefore, get lost along the way with lots of frustration. I usually successfully improve this type of thing just by improving the processing speed, memory and ability to multi-task or handle multiple things at once through specific practice.
The stress part usually fades on it’s own once these kids realize that with some practice they can work faster and can do much better. Of course, the less time the stress has had to build up, the easier it is to unravel, but that does not mean that kids who have had stress for a long time are not able to be helped. Even adults can change this pattern and completely turn around their style of learning with the right practice. So, don’t panic. It’s never too late to change it, but of course, the earlier the better. Sometimes, when stress is part of it, kids are accused of having an “emotional problem” when the underlying root cause has always been a cognitive processing issue that needs to be unraveled, practiced and ultimately fixed. I can help right from your PC at home, live and 1 on 1.
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