Slower processing and social relationships
Slow processing speed can affect children’s social relationships in general and friendships in many different ways. It means they can:
- Take longer to grasp or understand social concepts
- Have difficulty finding the right words to use – especially if the conversation is emotionally charged
- Need more time to respond in conversations
- Struggle to maintain attention during social interactions – lost in the crowd.
In this section we look at
- What does slow processing in social situations look like?
- What practical strategies can support your child’s social interactions? These are shown in three sections
- Scaffolding and supporting your child’s social interactions
- Organising their thoughts and help them communicate effectively
- Assisting during fast paced and complex social situations
What does slow processing in social situations look like?
- Take longer to pick up on social clues so miss the point of the conversation, especially in quick to and fro conversations.
- Interactions can be seem out of sync as they are taking longer to work out a response
- Lose track of what is happening in pretend play or games and their peers can become frustrated with them.
- They are disorganized in retelling stories or events
- Have poor time management, for example, always running late
- Reactions to jokes and sarcasm can be just a few seconds behind making them seem a “bit off”
- Difficulty working in groups
What practical strategies can support your child’s social interactions?
1. Scaffold and support your child’s social interactions by
- Giving them ways to have more time to process.
- Look for teachable moments so you can talk through situations where their processing affected the social interaction.
- Help your child understand their learning profile so they can begin to notice when slow processing is causing them difficulty.
- Be aware not to overwhelm your child with too much information at once by waiting for those teachable moments.
What are teachable moments? This is when a situation arises that enables you to discuss it with your child to help them learn from what happened. Teachable moments can come from you observing your child with other children or if your child comes to you and says “no-one likes me” or I’m never included in games on the playground”.
Suggestions to help include:
- Teach them ways to give them more time to process by asking people to speak more slowly or to say “give me a second, because I need time to think about that”
- Teach ways to ask for clarification “What did you mean when you said that?” Or “I didn’t get everything that you said. Can you say it one more time?”
- Limit the number of peers your child interacts with because with a smaller group there is less to process
- Teach your child ways of getting involved in the pace of the conversation by nodding when someone is speaking or saying things like “That’s interesting” or “I understand” or even just “Uh-huh”.
- Make sure they look at and focus on the person talking. The body language gives additional cues on what is being said.
2. Providing support for your child to organize their thoughts and communicate effectively.
When a child struggles for quick word retrieval and verbal organisation it can cause them to “talk around” a subject and make it difficult for the listener to understand what they are trying to say. They can use words that fill space such as “thingy”, “that stuff” or “you know what I mean…”.
Suggestions to help include;
- Help your child focus on the big picture of the story so their organisation can flow from the large topic to the details.
- Help your child become comfortable using the words, first, second and third when explaining a topic. Support them at first with prompts such as “What happened first?”, then “what happened next” and then “what happened last”. Allow time for them to come up with a response before asking the next question.
- Have your child explain a video game to someone who doesn’t know how to play
- After watching a movie or reading a book together ask the child to explain what happened in chronological order
- Help your child understand what information is important and what information isn’t as important.
3. Assisting your child during fast paced and complex social situations
When a situation is new, there are lots of people involved and the conversation is fast paced your child can struggle to keep up. This can occur anytime, for example, on the playground, in the classroom but also frequently in sports.
Suggestions to help include:
- Help your child learn to notice when social situations start to feel complicated. Teach them to not keep up but to observe and learn to slow down.
- When a situation is becoming intense let your child know they can move to a calmer environment, where possible, and that’s ok.
- Prepare your child in advance for situations that have the potential to become overwhelming eg going to a party, starting a new school. Review what will happen and who will be there, show pictures of people who will be there or practice what they can say.