Information Processing Issues: What You Need to Know

Interview by

Amanda Morin

03 November 2017

If your child has a learning and attention issue, you may have heard the phrase information processing issues. That’s not a diagnosis. It’s a concept used in cognitive psychology as a way to understand several other learning issues. Here’s what it means.

What Information Processing Is

When psychologists use this term, they’re likening how the brain works to how a computer works. That includes how the mind collects information and how we use that data to do things.

We collect information in many ways, including through sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. In computer terms, the information is known as input. But that’s only the first step in information processing. Once we gather that data, our brain has to recognize, understand and store it.

Ultimately we have to respond to the information. That response is called output. Output is what we write, say, or do in reaction to the input.

Information processing covers the entire process. It’s how the input and output work together. It’s what makes it possible for kids to manage everything from reading a book to tying shoes.

What Information Processing Issues Are

Information processing issues arise when a child has trouble with either the input or the output—or both. Having these issues has nothing to do with the effort he’s putting in . And it doesn’t have anything to do with how smart he is.

Information processing issues do have to do with how the child’s brain is recognizing and using the information it gets. Processing can affect many areas. But there are some critical ones that have to do with learning: visual processing and auditory processing.

Visual Information Processing Issues

Visual processing refers to how a child uses the data he sees. It involves how quickly he can understand something when he sees it and how well he remembers that information.

A child with visual information processing issues may have trouble accurately making sense of what he sees. He may lack visual-spatial skills . He may also:

  • Find it hard to see the differences between similar-looking shapes or letters, like O and Q
  • Have trouble comparing and seeing differences between certain colors, shapes and patterns
  • Struggle to locate something specific on a page
  • Skip lines when he reads or read the same line repeatedly
  • Find it hard to stay in the lines when writing
  • Have trouble copying information from the board
  • Bump into things and have trouble navigating new places

Auditory Information Processing Issues

Auditory processing refers to how a child uses the data he hears. It involves how he makes sense of the sounds he’s hearing and how he keeps up with the information.

A child with auditory information processing issues has trouble making sense of and getting meaning from what he hears. This is especially true when it’s noisy. He may:

  • Find it hard to tell the difference between similar-sounding words like fifty and fifteen
  • Struggle to understand spoken language
  • Have trouble following directions
  • Find it hard to remember details he’s heard
  • Seem as though he’s not listening

Not all kids with a certain kind of information processing issue will have the same difficulties. And a child who has an issue that involves information processing may also have trouble with working memory . Many kids also have a slower processing speed .

Finding Out If Your Child Has Trouble with Information Processing

If you think your child may have an information processing issue, the first step is to talk to his teacher. Discuss your concerns and ask what the teacher has noticed in class.

You might want to have your child evaluated to determine if one of these issues might be getting in the way of his learning. A full evaluation should include tests that look at processing skills . Testing can provide valuable information to help you and your child’s teachers develop a plan to support his learning.

Key Takeaways

  • Kids who have information processing issues can have trouble making sense of visual or auditory information.
  • Slow processing speed and difficulty with working memory can be signs of information processing issues.
  • Having your child evaluated can help uncover information processing issues.

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