Assessment of Processing Skills
In our case study, the psychologist has found that Jason has a significant discrepancy between the performance that would be predicted by his intelligence score and his actual academic performance in the areas of reading and written expression. The next step might be to administer additional tests to determine whether learning difficulties result from problems that Jason might have in processing auditory or verbal information.
What Is a Processing Assessment?
A significant discrepancy between ability and achievement suggests that there is some factor other than learning ability that is undermining a child's academic success. There are several possible reasons why a child may encounter academic difficulties, including a lack of motivation, lack of interest, frequent absenteeism, emotional or behavioral difficulties, family or adjustment difficulties, and processing problems. Children whose academic success is compromised by processing difficulties often can be diagnosed with a specific learning disability that describes the nature of their specific processing problem.
What Kinds of Processing Problems Exist?
Children with specific learning disabilities likely have no physical vision or hearing problems, and the majority of these children have average to above-average intelligence. However, their ability to be successful academically, and sometimes socially, can be compromised by unique deficits in how information is processed. An overview and in-depth discussion of the various types of specific learning disabilities can be found in Chapters Two and Three. At this point, the focus will be on the role of assessment in determining the nature of processing difficulties.
Information processing can break down as information is received at the input stage (auditory, visual, or motor recognition problems), at the integration stage (interpretation, short- and long-term memory, or organization of information), or the output stage (oral, written communication, or motor responses). Children who have problems with attention and concentration often experience difficulty receiving information and sustaining attention long enough to allow for sufficient interpretation. Impulsive children may jump to the expression stage and virtually bypass the interpretive process.
Weaknesses in processing information can occur at several different levels and can result in specific learning problems. Some of the more common types of processing skills and deficits are listed in Table 8.3. Possessing difficulties in any of these areas can result in poor academic performance despite good intellectual ability and motivation. Children with these types of processing problems are often very frustrated, painfully aware of their poor academic progress, and may suffer from low self-esteem.
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