Does your child struggle to process information quickly? Have you witnessed your child trying to explain what he means only to “talk around” the idea, leaving you to guess what the idea is? He knows what he wants to say, but can’t find the words to say it. Your child may have a verbal processing speed issue.
Verbal fluency is a cognitive function that enables information to be retrieved from memory. Quickly processing verbal ideas requires more than vocabulary and word-finding skills to be successful.
Good executive functioning skills are necessary for fluid verbal processing. Here are the executive functioning skills that we use when quickly verbalizing our ideas:
- Selective attention
- Selective inhibition
- Mental set shifting
- Internal response generation
In the book, Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up by Ellen Braaten, Ph.D. and Brian Willoughby, Ph.D. (2014) verbal processing speed is identified as one type of processing speed. Drs. Ellen Braaten and Brian Willoughby have worked with thousands of kids and teens at the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital who struggle with processing speed issues. They clarify that processing speed isn’t a one‐dimensional concept. Rather it is a combination of how fast we see, write and hear. In fact they point out that processing speed deficits are observed in visual processing, verbal processing, and motor speed. Problems in one or more of these areas can then create problems with academic fluency.
Drs. Braaten and Willoughby found that in addition to general interventions, kids with slow processing speed often need help organizing their thoughts to be able to communicate better. Students struggling with processing speed issues frequently have difficulty expressing their ideas clearly and concisely. Frequent problems with word retrieval and verbal organization cause children with verbal processing speed issues to talk around the subject making it difficult for the listener to understand what they’re trying to share.
Drs. Braaten and Willoughby note that experience and growth are crucial to increasing processing speed during the childhood and adolescent years. They identify two key components to increase processing speed:
- Practice and experience. Research on processing speed has shown that the more times someone repeats a task, the more automatic and thus quicker the response becomes.
- Speed increases are due to structural changes in the brain that happen naturally as it develops during childhood.
Providing students with the right exercises to practice is important. The Think, Talk, Laugh workbook helps students organize their language. Each lesson provides worksheets to promote practice. Building the pathways in the brain to allow smooth language processing will enable students become verbally fluent.
How does the program build verbal processing skills?
The Think, Talk, Laugh Program contains four sections; each section focuses on a unique aspect of language processing. The program helps students create an internal organizational structure for storing language, which enables them to quickly process and recall verbal information. Repeated practice leads to mastery.
- Organization of Thoughts and Language Activities build language organization skills through the development of higher order thinking skills.
- Word Retrieval Activities help develop word generation.
- Rapid Naming Activities use repetition to develop automaticity of “seeing and saying” of overlearned elements.
- Rapid Retrieval Activities focus on the skills taught in the Organization of Thoughts and Language, Word Retrieval and Rapid Naming Activities to help students retrieve words as quickly as possible.
Processing speed involves a complex network of brain connections, all working together. Developing neural pathways and neural networks so information can flow efficiently will increase processing speed. Repeated exposure through practice will lead to “overlearning” a task so students can process information faster.
The exercises in the Think, Talk, Laugh workbook build fluid verbal processing so children absorb language and share their ideas quickly and efficiently.