Processing Skills
Processing Skills
Learning Disability
The PACE Story
Provider Support

Step 2

What skills does your child need to learn easily?

I have created a model that shows you what happens during the act of learning. It will assist you in pinpointing the areas where your child’s skills are weak.

If any one of these skills is not adequate, it can affect one or more academic areas, as well as the ease and speed of learning. In that way, learning skills are like the members of a team. If, for example, a team has a poor quarterback, it is extremely hard to effectively use an excellent receiver.

Follow along with me as I review the steps we take to learn, the role learning skills have, and the problems created when individual learning skills are not adequate.

Sensory Input is the gathering of sensory information by sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Of course in academic learning, sight and hearing are predominant. This sensory information must be received easily and clearly by the processing system.

The Active Processing System is the part of the learning system that does something with what is seen or heard. It works just like your computer processor with a program loaded. It attends to new information, analyzes it, links it with past experience, and determines the value of the information entering. It's in this area that most learning problems occur.

Motor Output is the response to the information that we have both received and processed. It include actions such as running, writing or speaking.

Studies point out that only 10 to 15 percent of learning difficulties are due to input or output problems and approximately 85-90 percent are due to poor processing skills. Let's examine this system more closely.

The skills most needed for good learning

In the model below, the lower section is called the active processing system, which represents what the mind is occupied with at any given time. The upper section represents additional mental skills that are available to be used and interact with any incoming information.

The active processing system includes attention and working memory (the ability to retain the information until it is further analyzed). It is the work center. As the incoming information is worked on, other mental skills come into play and interact with it.

For example, long-term memory is used to compare incoming information with past experiences, so that we can determine if it is new, old, or a modification of information we have stored in the past.

Visual information requires visual processing skills to discriminate and analyze information. Likewise auditory input requires auditory processing skills to analyze and process sound information. Problem solving activities require logic and reasoning skills and listening and reading will also require comprehension skills for understanding.

This whole process is governed by a planning function, which may tell us that the information coming in is useless, and thus we should ignore it and not attend to it. It may determine that the information is useful, and something we should pay particular attention to.

The degree to which all these individual mental skills are developed and the efficiency in which they work and integrate with each other, will play heavily in the overall ability of the active processing system to handle information accurately, quickly, and efficiently.

How deficient skills affect specific learning tasks

Although this learning system is far more complex than I have described in our model, it is helpful in describing how deficiencies in any of these skills will affect learning.

Mental skill

Results if poorly developed

Attention If attention skills are deficient, then the ability to stay on a task for long periods of time or ignore distractions would limit the ability of other mental skills. This can affect all areas work.
Working memory If you cannot retain information long enough to properly handle that information, learning will suffer.
Processing speed If the speed of processing is slow, then the information held in working memory may be lost before it can be used, requiring to start all over again.
Visual processing If visual manipulation or visual imagery is poor then those tasks that require seeing in your head ( math word problems, and comprehension, etc.) will suffer.
Long-term memory If the abilities to store and retrieve information easily are poor, then wrong conclusions and answers will result.
Auditory processing If blending, segmenting and sound analysis are poorly developed, then sounding out words when reading or spelling will be very difficult and result in errors.
Reasoning and logic If these abilities are poor, then problem solving, math, and comprehension will be poor.
Comprehension If comprehension is deficient, understanding and making sense of new information will suffer.

It is also important to note that these skills do not work individually. Most work on every input, so the strength or weakness of one skill affects the effectiveness of other skills.

For example, reading comprehension is dependent on many skills, including; the ability to create mental pictures and images, attend to what is read, and the fluidity of reading (which itself is dependent upon the auditory processing system).

Yes, learning is a complex process...

However, by evaluating these underlying mental skills, it is possible for us to determine the real causes of learning difficulties and what skills need to be improved to make learning far better.

Let's look at how we do that by looking first at testing and then at the training.

Step 3

Five steps to help you help your child

By following these steps you will have gained some very important information that will dramatically improve you child's ability to do well in school.

  1. Understand the causes of learning difficulties.
  2. Know the skills necessary for fast and efficient learning.
  3. Find out what skills are weak.
  4. Learn what needs to happen to improve learning skills.
  5. Take specific steps that can help your child or student gain the skills needed to become a successful student.
     Print this page