Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

Melissa Mullin earned her Ph.D in Educational Psychology with a specialization in Learning and Instruction from the University of California at Los Angeles.  As  the Director of the K & M Center in Santa Monica, CA. Melissa has been helping students, and their parents, learn for over 20 years.

Bits of wisdom pass by Melissa’s desk everyday. Parents email and call with new research they find and questions they want her to answer. She continues to learn from both the insights parents share with her and from the ideas she gets while answering their questions. This blog is created to share that wisdom with all.

Dr. Mullin provides expert advice in the following areas:

  •  Identification of Learning Disabilities
  • Characteristics distinct to children who have learning challenges
  • Parenting skills to help struggling students
  • Interventions for students with learning issues

If you would like Melissa to answer your question just post it in the comment section below. Melissa will do her best to answer your question and she may use it as a post so other parents can learn more about learning challenges many children face.

For more information about the K&M Center visit her web site at

42 Responses

  1. Marsha Gosselin

    Hi my son is 17 years old and was recently tested at the school. His verbal comprehension was a 91 which was in the average range and working memory was borderline. My son also has auditory processing disorder. See subtest scores

    Verbal Comprehension Scaled Score 7 Low Average
    Verbal Comprehension Index Score 7 Low Average
    Digit Span Score 6 – Borderline
    DS Forward Score 4 – Very Low
    DS Backward Score 8 Low Average
    DS Sequencing 6 Borderline
    Working Memory Index 6 Borderline
    Letter Number Sequencing – Low Average
    Coding 4 – Very Low

    I was hoping you could give me suggestions on how to help my son. Will a speech pathologist be able to address his low scores? All of his other tests were in the average range.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      A speech therapist is a good place to start to build the auditory processing skills. I also wonder if inattentive ADHD was considered. ADHD often impacts working memory and fine motor skills. I see that his coding score was low. I would consider looking at his attention, especially his auditory attention as a factor to build, along with his language skills, auditory working memory and fine motor skills.

  2. Ron

    Hi Melissa,

    My son is 15.5 years old and is in 10th grade. He is performing way below his abilities in school. Speaking with experts was frustrating, because they explained about the tests they can do (and we have done some tests when he was 10 years old) but I was never able to understand what would be the next steps and we can help him (other than using medications). I believe that he has the inattentive type of ADHD (no hyperactivity). We leave in the SF area and I understand that you do not work in this area. Do you have any recommendation for me?

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      We have started to do Skype sessions for people out the area. I find the Skype sessions work best for Executive Functioning, math and writing skills. I do not know what areas your son is experiencing difficulty in, but most children with ADHD have weak executive functioning skills. Making sure he knows what work he has do, that he does it AND turns it in is important. Additionally, time management skills help make sure there is enough time to do the work AND study for tests, as well complete projects without undue stress.

  3. Dora

    Hi Melissa, my 6 years old daughter has high iq and low processing speed and low auditory memory with high visual memory. I’m told that the first 3 can be sign of dislexia and autism, maybe other things as well. With these skills she is average at school.
    Should I insist to see an educational psychologist or what would you recommend?
    Is she too young or is it best to start working with her the earlier possible?

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      I would definitely recommend an evaluation to discover her learning and processing style. Early intervention is extremely helpful to develop the skills children need for learning.

  4. Cindy

    Dr. Mullin – I am an Orton-Gillingham tutor. I work at a private school but was approached yesterday by a very frustrated parent trying to find help for her public school child. He was tested by the school system and received the following scores: VCI – 96, PRI -94, WMI – 68 and PSI – 80. There is no diagnosis on the psychological. He has frequent migraines as well as strep and has missed a lot of school. He has a doctor’s diagnosis and doctor’s excuses but the school will not give him an IEP only a 504 because of his many absences. The 504 for the migraines includes extra time and that’s it. He appears to be reading on a 1st grade level. The public school is offering no help. I am trying to give them some direction. This is a young man who has received the Citizenship Award 2 years straight. He can tell you in detail anything you want to know about reptiles. He has a love of learning but is limited by not being able to read and write. I am shocked and disappointed that a public school system would offer this student nothing more than a band-aid of a 504 plan and not offer him a plan to improve his reading. Do you have any insight or opinion of what I can share with this mother that might encourage the school system to come through? This is a sad situation with an urgent need…

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      This is a tough situation. The school system has guidelines they must follow. If a child is not receiving the correct services it can sometimes be helpful to consult with a child advocate who understands the laws and can guide the parents in the actions they need to take to get the services they need.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      I would recommend talking to the school again and then consulting with a student advocate who understands the laws in your state to see what service are due. Schools have laws and guidelines they must follow, I do not know them, but it is worth taking the next step if a child’s needs are not being met.

  5. Jeanine

    Hi Melissa – My son’s school is happy with his progress but, having my own reservations I had an Ed Pshyc evaluation done. His composite IQ scores range from ‘superior’ to ‘low average’, with the highest being Verbal Comprehension at 126 while Processing Speed is lowest at 85. Working Memory is 99. I was wondering if it would be possible to email you his report for a second opinion on what to do next / advice that we can pass on to the school? If so please advise cost etc.

  6. peggy

    I want to thank you for this sight, it is wonderful! My son is 12, 6th grade and just diagnosed with dyslexia, disorder with impairment in Written expression and ADD. He took several test,below are the WISC -V

    VCI – 111
    Similarities 13 84%
    Vocabulary 11 63%
    VSI – 108
    Block design 10 50%
    Visual puzzle 13 84%
    FRI – 128
    Matrix Reasoning 15 95%
    Figure weights 15 95%
    WMI – 112
    Digit span 11 63%
    Picture span 13 84%
    PSI – 98
    Coding 12 75%
    Symbol search 7 16%
    FSIQ – 118

    Reading fluency 25%

    I am trying to figure out how to interpret discrepancies in the subtest scores. Your blog was the first sight I found that explained that I should have my son tested for tracking because there’s a variance between Coding and Symbol Search. Is there a website that explains what each subtest is testing or a website that correlates the WISC V, KTEA-III, GORT-V, BODER, and TOVA . My son is frustrated and is beginning to show signs of completely giving up. I am afraid if I don’t have an understanding of what the problem is, he will spend time with specialist /tutors without much improvement and he will give up. The psychologist that did the testing was more interested in treating the ADD (which I don’t think he has) and her only advice for dyslexia was to read more. Any help in pointing me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated!

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      I do not know of a site that helps interpret scores, it is a very complicated process and involves more than just the numbers. I have worked with 100’s (if not 1,000’s by now) of students and I am still learning. There are some basic guidelines but every child needs to viewed in light of the whole picture and no one can do that without talking to parents and reading a full evaluation. I am only pointing people in a direction to look further into something they think might match their child.

      Looking at the information you have provided I would investigate his visual processing and tracking issues as that is the only low score on his WISC. There are programs like PACE( processing and cognitive enhancement) and Eye-Q that build visual skills, but I would visit a developmental opthamologist to see if vision therapy would be helpful.

      Another area to investigate is rapid naming. Did they test that on the evaluation?

  7. DeborahB

    I was glad to find your website. The information is well written and helpful. My son seems to have the frustration profile. He has an average verbal skill score (VCI = 100) but his processing speed score is extremely low. I am in the process of working with our school to put interventions in place for him. I never thought about the possibility of the act of writing being difficult for him. The neuropsychologist that did the testing recommended having a word processor and Dragon software.

  8. Todd

    Hi Melissa, Thank you for the website and assistance to so many concerned parents. My son, Harry, is 9 years old and was tested several years ago in Atlanta. His processing was below average, IQ in the normal territory. He struggles with simple tasks such as tying shoes, eating without making a mess, forgetfulness. Socially, he struggles to keep up a conversation with kids his own age and usually gets left out of games and ends up playing with kids a couple of years younger. I’ve coached him in sports and always recognize he is a step behind. In basketball, while on offense, he will be guarding his opponent. He seems to be a relatively smart kids, good at chess and other mental games. He’s a good baseball pitcher, but if playing the field, he cannot process quickly enough where to go with the ball. I also notice he gets super focused on things like the weather. I need to go back and get his test scores, but just wondering how we can further clarify what his needs are and how much we can improve these issues. It kills me to see him upset because kids don’t want to play and they are more mature. Any suggestions would be a great help Thanks, Todd

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      It sounds like your son may have a Neurodevelopmental Disorder (NDD), this is the new diagnoses for what was called the “clumsy child” and now has a DSM code so that intervention may be covered by insurance.

      You can read below to see if you think this might match your child. If you think this might an issue with your child you can talk to your pediatrician or school about testing and interventions.

      New cluster of NDDs are in the DSM 5, which includes six categories: Intellectual Developmental Disorders, Communication Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Learning Disorders, and Motor Disorders.

      The motor disorder, which it sound like your son may have, includes developmental coordination disorder (DCD), which is also called developmental dyspraxia and the “clumsy child” syndrome. DCD has 4 diagnostic criteria, as follows:
      • Acquisition and execution of coordinated motor skills are below what would be expected at a given chronologic age and opportunity for skill learning and use; difficulties are manifested as clumsiness and as slowness and inaccuracy of performance of motor skills
      • The motor skills deficit significantly or persistently interferes with activities of daily living appropriate to the chronologic age and impacts academic/school productivity, prevocational and vocational activities, leisure, and play
      • The onset of symptoms is in the early developmental period
      The motor skills deficits cannot be better explained by intellectual disability or visual impairment and are not attributable to a neurologic condition affecting movement.

  9. Anna

    My daughter who is 8 years 1 month old has struggled in school and at home, and was recently evaluated by a psychologist for several things. She was diagnosed with severe depression and mild anxiety. It was not conclusive but the evaluation suggests that she either has a LD or Inattentive ADHD. I’ve formally requested that her school perform a further evaluation to determine whether there is a LD. I meet with the school in a couple weeks where they will determine if they are going to do an evaluation. The initial evaluation done by the psychologist gave the following results:

    Processing Speed 78
    IQ 80
    Verbal Comp 83
    Working Memory 83
    Perceptual Reasoning 92

    Sentence Comp 78
    Math Computation 90
    Spelling 92
    Word Reading 96

    Her academic achievement scores weren’t too bad. And that’s how her grades seem to be also…around B’s. But her intellectual functioning skills were low. I’m worried that the school won’t want to conduct the assessment because her academic achievement scores aren’t low. It seems like my daughter can get scores to barely get her by, but it takes her a lot of effort and thinking to get there. Is it strange that she has such low intellectual functioning skills but can achieve just slightly below average academic achievement scores? Any suggestions on how to best handle the meeting with the school to get a formal evaluation completed?

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      My guess is that your daughter has a good memory and is an engaged learner so she is able to recall the information being taught. This rote memory skill can work well until higher order thinking skills and executive functioning skills are required when she gets older. You are right to be concerned, since it looks like an underlying processing issue may be causing her low intellectual functioning scores. Most likely you will need a neuropsychological assessment to get to the root of the issue, this not something that the school districts generally do. I would talk to your pediatrician to see if she has any suggestions for you.

  10. Sera Johnston

    Hi Melissa, Our daughter is aged 16 and we are from the UK. She has finished school and is currently in 6th form until 18 and then going to university. In 6th form she studies Law, Business Studies, Phycology and Drama and settled in really well. Academically she achieved good grade in school. She has cerebral palsy affecting her mobility (walks with sticks) and was assessed by an educational phycologist a few years ago resulting in an increase in time for taking exams.

    I am really worried as the head of 6th form has stated my daughter is struggling in Business and Phycology achieving below expected grades and have threaten to remove her from these subjects. Yet in Law she is achieving a distinction. I truly believe it is how she is being taught and she has mentioned there is so much information to take in. The 6th form are not accepting her disability is affecting her processing and retaining the information.

    I was interested in reading your articles and mention editing skills, this has never been mentioned to us nor taught. I really feel starting 6th form has uncovered so many issues and I don’t know the best way to help her. She is bright and I know by having an understanding and installing the right strategies she can fulfil her academic ability yet the school are insistent she can’t manage and cope and I should accept this. The school are not taking my concerns seriously. Can you advise on what assessment is best for her?

    My worry is also for university when she attends lectures and by not getting the right strategies in place will jeopardise her future.

    Thank you

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      It is hard to tease out what difficulties your daughter is experiencing, but since you mention CP and editing, I would guess that her writing speed is slow. I don’t know how the UK views processing speed issues, but in the USA we are still working hard to educate teachers about this difficultly and how it affects the output of students. I would suggest that you check out the intervention on my blog on Dysgraphia

  11. Melissa Bouzianis

    Hi Melissa, I am wondering if you would know which colleges help students with slow processing speed. The volume of reading can be overwhelming and I suspect some students may benefit from “under loading” meaning taking a lighter load each semester. Can you recommend any schools that would allow this?
    Thanks, Melissa

  12. Lyn

    My son was diagnosed with a Neurodeveloopmental Disorder after being tested. His verbal score was superior, nonverbal high average, working memory average and processing speed deficient. I read your articles on processing speed but what does neurodevelopmental disorder mean? So thankful for your website. I wish I had stumbled upon it before now.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      Here is some information on Neurodevelopmental Disorders. You can read the full articles for more information.

      Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NDDs) are disorders of brain function that affect emotion, learning, and memory.

      New cluster of NDDs are in the DSM 5, which includes six categories: Intellectual Developmental Disorders, Communication Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Learning Disorders, and Motor Disorders.

      The motor disorder includes developmental coordination disorder (DCD), which is also called developmental dyspraxia and the “clumsy child” syndrome. DCD has 4 diagnostic criteria, as follows:
      • Acquisition and execution of coordinated motor skills are below what would be expected at a given chronologic age and opportunity for skill learning and use; difficulties are manifested as clumsiness and as slowness and inaccuracy of performance of motor skills
      • The motor skills deficit significantly or persistently interferes with activities of daily living appropriate to the chronologic age and impacts academic/school productivity, prevocational and vocational activities, leisure, and play
      • The onset of symptoms is in the early developmental period
      The motor skills deficits cannot be better explained by intellectual disability or visual impairment and are not attributable to a neurologic condition affecting movement.

  13. Jake

    Hi Melissa, Our daughter, aged 17 is in her final year of school, and she is currently struggling a lot with her tests and exams and getting very low scores (failing in tests). In 10th grade we realized that she was weak in Mathematics and therefore we did not take Math as a subject in 11th & 12th grades. Now however, science subjects also seem to be too difficult for her. We just got an aptitude test done for her, which we intend to use to find out her underlying aptitudes and send her for the appropriate course in college. The scores are as below. I would like to get your valuable assessment on the results and suggest the best career choices for her:

    1. General Intelligence : 105
    2. Verbal Aptitude : 117
    3. Numerical : 96
    4. Spatial : 112
    5. Form Perception : 121
    6. Clerical perc : 124
    7. Speed & Motor coord : 135
    8. Verbal intelligence percentile rank : 85
    9. Non Verbal intelligence percentile rank : 85
    10. Interest tests (consider scores above 75)
    a. Outdoor : 20
    b. Mechanical : 75
    c. Computational : 10
    d. Scientific : 50
    e. Persuasive : 45
    f. Artistic : 65
    g. Literary : 55
    h. Musical : 90
    i. Social service : 30
    j. Clerical : 45
    11. Personality tests (lower the better)
    a. Home : 25
    b. Health : 15
    c. Social : 10
    d. Emotional : 23

    Thank you very much in advance for all your suggestions. We are mainly trying to identify the best courses that she can pursue in college, that will keep her interested and will also provide good opportunity for employment and career growth.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      I am not familiar with the tests your daughter took so my comments should be secondary to the councilor who performed the assessment. What I note is that social and verbal are her strengths and she is a good problem solver. That covers a large area of possible careers. What is your daughter interested in? I have found that motivation is the best predictor of success. Your daughter has a good foundation to allow her pursue almost any area of interest.

  14. DeLane

    My son has been diagnosed with significant slow processing speed, mild ADD, mild Dyslexia and Executive function issues such as circumlocution, and dysgraphia. He was diagnosed at the end of third grade and received tutoring through middle school. He then refused further help and his natural intelligence has carried him through his freshman year of college, but he is hitting the wall. 1.Will his processing speed testing results from middle school still be valid for requesting extra testing time in college ie, is this something that stays basically unchanged? 2. What is the best way to find someone who is experienced in Executive Function matters to provide some assistance?

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      Great questions. I recommend that your son visit the student services office of the school. They should be able to provide referral for testing. Most likely they will require updated testing as testing general considered valid for 3 years. Hopefully the office can also guide to some help with executive functioning.

  15. Kay Gosnell

    My son has been tested by school psychology and found that he had a high processing speed he also has a high IQ but he is having difficulty in reading comprehension in school. Docs have said he doesn’t have ADD/ADHD. I would please like information on the best way to help him with this problem.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      If his Verbal Comprehension and Vocabulary scores were high on the IQ test, it maybe that his fast processing speed is the problem. Your son may be reading quickly without taking the time he need to comprehend what he is reading. Learning to slow down and visualize what he is reading may be all that is required here. SQ3R is a great method:Survey,Question, Read, Recite, Review:

      Survey: Record important titles and subtitles from the work.
      Question: Write “Who, What, When, Where, and Why” questions from main topics.
      Read: Write answers to questions from above.
      Recite: Record key facts and phrases as needed for each question.
      Review: Create a summary paragraph for each question.

  16. Kevin

    Hi Melissa,

    My daughter took WISC IV at 9 years and 9 months. I didn’t notice anything “not right” until when she prepares for some standard tests (SSAT). She always has lower score on reading comprehension than math. I guess it is kind of “natural” based on her WISC test. But what bothers me the most is that she keeps repeating the same mistakes in practice tests (reading AND math). This “making same mistake” behavior seems to be across board for all things she is doing – academic, music, sports. I can tell that she tried hard to fix it. Is this behavior also kind of “inherent” per her WISC test? Does her WISC indicate any potential learning issues that I need to follow up with additional test? By the ways, she seems to be doing fine in school, a straight “A” student.

    Thanks a lot for your help

    Verbal Comprehension 116 86%
    Perceptual reasoning 137 99%
    Working Memory 113 81%
    Processing Speed 136 99%
    Full Scale 134

    Similarities 12
    Digit Span 13
    Vocabulary 16
    Letter-number sequencing 12
    Comprehension 11
    Arithmetic (S) 18
    Information (S) 16
    Block design 14
    Picture concepts 15
    Coding 17
    Matrix reasoning 19
    Symbol search 16

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      Your daughter’s scores are very strong. I do not see anything of concern in her testing that would suggest a problem. The only comment I can make is that while her Working Memory is strong, it is lower than the other indexes. Her Processing Speed is very high, it may be that her thinking and processing speed are working ahead of her working memory skills and she “rushes” to the answer without stopping a moment to consider if there is anything to correct before she answers.

  17. Jane Evans

    I read on one of your other replies (can’t find it now) that when there’s a big discrepancy among the processing speed subtests this often indicates a fine motor issue. My daughter (14) has no problem accessing the curriculum but the rate at which she produces written work (math, english, science, whatever) has always lagged her peers and now it’s really a huge problem. Her scores for Processing Speed came out Coding 8, Coding Copy 6, Symbol Search 13, Cancellation 12. The tester suggested we might look into fine motor issues, but her handwriting is lovely and she draws beautifully. Can a child have a fine motor problem that manifests itself in slow production but not in quality? I noticed that you recommend RetrainTheBrain – would that be likely to help in this case? Also, have you looked at Callirobics (which seems very similar but is cheaper)?

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      Your daughters score on the Coding test suggests that she is slower at visual-motor tasks than peers her age. Here is a link to an article I wrote on Dsygraphia that many clarify things for you: Dysgraphia: Difficulty writing

  18. Jenny

    Hi Melissa,
    I am busy mum to 3 great boys, 10,9 and 7. My eldest has benign epilepsy and is currently with Cahms. He has recently had a wisc test, 3rd percentile, full score of 72…
    Verbal 16th percentile, perceptual reasoning 2nd percentile, Memory 13th percentile, processing speed at 4th percentile. – if this matters with education, surely it matters at home the same.
    His behaviour at home is scary. He is a good kid, but when something is bothering him, he is horrid to siblings and goes to extreme behaviour. As he is good at school Cahms say his behaviour isn’t consistent to be on the ASD/autism scale. He gets aggressive and frustrated and dosnt have a sleep pattern. Cahms said it was his epilepsy at first, now they are saying its down to behaviour/ learning difficulty, not a disability as its 72 and not 70…..why is everything so hard, and where to start getting some help. Been with cahms for 14 months now and still waiting.
    He only has one year in primary and been told not to statement from local education authority as they are talking about putting him in a unit am, mainstream school afternoon. More things for us as parents to worry about, never mind my little man.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      Given that your son’s highest score is in Verbal Comprehension and his lowest score in in the Perceptual Reasoning Index I have copied a reply I sent to another parent about NonVerbal Learning Disabilities. I hope that you can find some good suggestions here.

      Diagnosing NLD is difficult. Here is a great article that can help you learn more about NLD. I have only included part of the article; I highly suggest you read the whole article to learn about the traits to look at for NLD. There is a difference between dysgraphia and LND and it is important to know what the differences are. Many dysgraphic students have neuropsychologial deficits which lead to academic issues which are the same as a child with NLD, but they do not have the social/emotional issues.

      The Syndrome of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities:
      Clinical Description and Applied Aspects by Michael A. Roman

      Edited article


      The syndrome of nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD) includes a number of specific, potentially debilitating symptoms. Rourke (1995a) has grouped these into three major areas:
      1. neuropsychological deficits, include difficulties with
      • tactile and visual perception,
      • psychomotor coordination,
      • tactile and visual attention,
      • nonverbal memory,
      • reasoning,
      • executive functions, and
      • specific aspects of speech and language
      2. academic deficits,
      • in math calculations,
      • mathematical reasoning,
      • reading comprehension,
      • specific aspects of written language, and
      • handwriting are primary academic concerns
      3. social-emotional/adaptational deficits.
      • problems with social perception and social interaction.
      • Children with this disorder are also seen as having substantially increased risk for internalized forms of psychopathology, primarily anxiety and depression.

      While the NVLD syndrome has only recently been described in detail (Rourke, 1987, 1989), a number of important articles and two major books have been dedicated to descriptions of the disorder (Rourke, 1989, 1995a). Despite this fact, the syndrome is unfamiliar to many psychologists, diagnosticians, and educators. There is no formal provision under federal special education law recognizing the existence of nonverbal learning disability as a handicapping condition. In most cases, children with this disorder are best classified as Other Health Impaired. Because they may also have specific motor skills deficits, problems with math, social interactional difficulties, and/or emotional disturbances, some of these children may also be appropriately classified as orthopedically handicapped, learning disabled, or emotionally disturbed. This may be particularly appropriate for cases of neurologically acquired NVLD rather than the more common developmental cases of the disorder.

      Setting up a strong support system for your son and helping him build coping skills will help him move toward independence. Using the scaffolding system, you give support while a skill is being developed and then slowly take it away as the student is able to perform on his own. Here is an edited article that outlines many suggestions. The website LDonline is a great resource,

      Developing an Educational Plan for the Student with NLD
      By: Sue Thompson, M.A., C.E. (1998)
      Read the full article at:

      Has difficulty coping with changes in routine and transitions
      • Providing a predictable and safe environment with a consistent daily routine;
      • Minimizing transitions and giving several verbal cues to the student before transitions;
      • Furnishing the child’s parents with a schedule of activities so they can “rehearse” (preview and prepare) for the following day with their child and make sure he has the necessary supplies required for the day’s activities;
      • Posting a simple written schedule on the blackboard at the beginning of each day in primary grades;
      • Explaining the daily agenda to the older child so he can begin to internalize the structure of his school day;
      • Writing out a high school student’s daily schedule on a card (with any changes in routine highlighted) that can be carried from class to class, so it is always readily available.

      Has difficulty generalizing previously learned information
      • Never expecting the student to automatically generalize instructions or concepts;
      • Using language as the bridge to tie new situations to old learning;
      • Reviewing past information before presenting new concepts;
      • Verbally pointing out similarities, differences and connections;
      • Verbally indicating generalizations which can be drawn in various situations;
      • Methodically discussing the cause-and-effect relationships of events and situations with the student.

      Has difficulty following multi-step instructions
      • Writing out and/or tape recording multi-step instructions;
      • Numbering and presenting instructions in the most efficient sequence;
      • Breaking all tasks down into manageable segments and presenting them a few at a time;
      • Making sure the student understands your instructions- don’t assume that repeating them back to you means that he will remember and can follow through;
      • Pairing the student with NLD with a nondisabled “buddy” who can remind him of “the next step;”
      • \Teaching the student mnemonic devices for short term memory enhancement;
      • Checking with the student at frequent intervals to be sure he is not “lost” or confused.

      Makes very literal translations
      • Explaining what you mean by the things you say which may be misinterpreted;
      • Simplifying and breaking-down abstract concepts;
      • Starting with concrete concepts and images and slowly moving to abstract concepts and images, at a pace set by the student;
      • Understanding that metaphors, emotional nuances, multiple levels of meanings, and relationship issues as presented in novels will not be understood unless explained;
      • Teaching the student to say “I’m not sure what you mean” or “That doesn’t make sense to me” to give her a specific vocabulary to help her decipher your intent.

      Asks too many questions
      • Answering the student’s questions whenever it is possible and practical (other students in the class may actually have the same questions, but be lacking in the verbal abilities to ask them);
      • Starting the other students on the assignment and then individually answering the rest of this student’s questions;
      • Designating a specific time during the day when you can continue a discussion which needs to end at the moment;
      • Telling the student you only have time to answer three questions right now (a specific number is important – – don’t say “a few”), but that you will be glad to answer three more of his questions during the recess break;
      • Specifically teaching the student when it is appropriate to ask for help (i.e. if he will be unable to continue his assignment unless something he doesn’t understand is explained to him) and the appropriate methods of doing so;
      • Explicitly teaching the rules of polite social conduct, so that the child does not constantly interrupt class activities with his questions.

      Is easily overwhelmed
      • Diffusing potentially weighty situations as early on as possible;
      • Minimizing environmental stimuli (especially visual and tactile);
      • Having a consistent strategy to employ when the child can no longer cope due to overstimulation, frustration or confusion;
      • Allowing the child to abstain from participating in activities when she demonstrates any signs of overload;
      • Eliminating all nightly homework assignments;
      • Implementing a modified schedule or other creative programming strategy.

      May experience heightened sensory experiences
      • Preparing the environment for the child (eliminating known sensory stressors);
      • Reducing distractions and situations contributing to sensory overload;
      • Focusing on one sensory modality at a time (avoiding multi-sensory approaches to instruction);
      • Allowing modifications as needed to deal with sensitivity issues (protecting the child from sounds that hurt his ears or avoiding the use of fluorescent lights in the classroom);
      • Talking in a low whisper to a child with extreme auditory sensitivity;
      • Ensuring that this child is placed in a classroom location with the least amount of distraction (usually up at the front of the room, away from visual and auditory sources of “clutter”).

      May develop secondary issues with stress and anxiety
      • Previewing and preparing for all novel situations and transitions in advance;
      • Providing a consistent and predictable daily routine;
      • Gradually exposing this child to new activities, teachers, classes, schools, etc.;
      • Ensuring that this child is safe from physical and emotional abuse; · Avoiding sudden and unexpected surprises;
      • Thoroughly preparing the child in advance for field trips, modified schedules, or other changes, regardless of how minimal;
      • Talking the child through stressful situations or (non-punitively) removing her from the stressful situation;
      • Providing personal space in the resource room or other designated area for regrouping and relaxation.

      Imparts the “illusion of competency”
      • Providing a highly individualized educational program;
      • Applying age and grade-level expectations with flexibility;
      • Emphasizing the strong academic skills and gifts of the child with NLD by creating cooperative learning situations in which his proficient verbal, reading, oral spelling, vocabulary, and memory skills will be showcased to advantage (and his difficulties with writing can be de-emphasized);
      • Never assuming this child understands something just because he can parrot back what you have just said;
      • Never assuming this child understands what he has read, just because he is a “proficient” reader (has excellent word recognition);
      • Offering added verbal explanations when the child seems “lost” or registers obvious confusion.

  19. Karen Hudson

    I need guidance on how to help my child the best I can. He has undergone several tests and has been moved from chapter 504 to special ed. The tests have all be inconclusive they put mismatched information that dose not make sense to me and I am getting very frustrated. His processing speed is at an 81 and that has been consistent in all of his tests. They want to leave him in special ed under emotional disturbance and under that anxiety. I feel that is an inaccurate assessment and want to push it further. What kind of questions do I need to ask and how can I push this without causing more problems.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      I would help educate the school about processing speed issues. Printing and sharing my post The Frustration Profile is a good way to start. The issue is whether his emotional issues are stemming from his frustration in the classroom due to his learning difference or if there is an underlying psychological issue that needs to be addressed. I suggest that you talk to your pediatrician and see if you can get a referral to a specialist who can determine the cause of your son’s distress. You can then take those results to the school to request accommodations.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

      The Flexible Thinking Workbook has been working quite well with children with autism.

      • Barbara Fahey

        Hi Melissa,

        Our 16 year old daughter has struggled in school starting in 7th grade. She was diagnosed with ADD inattentive and anxiety and is on medication for these issues. Her WISC test results from 6th grade were VC 116, PR 98, WM 110 and PS 78. We got her a 504 to allow extra time on tests and assignments but she gets overwhelmed with the volume of homework and keeps falling farther behind on assignments from the start of each semester. We have gotten her a tutor who is working on mind mapping and organizational skills which seems to be helping. She is a passionate singer songwriter and support her in this interest through music camps, instruments etc. We want her to at least get a high school diploma and have the opportunity to major in music at a community college. However she has mostly D’s and F’s and so graduating from high school is not assured. We’re wondering if she should have additional testing and if so which tests and if there’s anything else we should be doing to help her.

      • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

        I would investigate her executive functioning skills. You can take our free EF Quiz and discover her executive functioning strengths and weakness. Your examiner should also have an executive functioning questionnaire that you and your daughter’s teachers can complete. Her tutor can then use the information to help your daughter learn more about how her brain processes information and help her create strategies to help her in school. I would also check with the school if they can add an accommodation of a reduced load.

        Processing Speed recommendations:
        • Allow longer response time to:
        • respond orally to questions in class
        • complete seatwork assignments in class
        • make decisions when offered a choice of activities
        • Allow extra time for tests, usually time and a half.
        • Shorten assignments so they can be accomplished within the time allotted.
        • Provide copies of notes rather than requiring the student to copy from the board in a limited time.
        • Build the student’s efficiency in completing work through building automaticity.
        • Train the student in time management techniques to become aware of the time that tasks take.
        • Emphasize accuracy rather than speed in evaluating all subject areas.
        • Replace timed tests with alternative assessment procedures.
        • Provide a scribe or voice-to-text software to record the student’s answers on tests to accommodate for slow writing fluency.
        • Use test formats with reduced written output formats (e.g. multiple choice, True / False, fill in the blank) to accommodate for slow writing fluency.

        Here are some more articles I have written that might help your daughter do better in school.

        Learning and Stress Can Be Related

        Slow Processing Speed…is it due to weak motor skills, weak auditory processing skills or weak executive function skills?

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