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Foundational Processing System©

The “Foundational Processing System” contains fifteen primary processing systems, most of which have several subsystems. The construction of the “Foundational Processing System” starts at inception and continues until death. The brain is continually re-organizing, by constructing new neural networks and connections and pruning off networks that are not being used. This process is called neuroplasticity and is one of the most important discoveries of the twentieth century.

The quality of the “Foundational Processing System" is determined by interplay of genetics (nature) and environmental interactions (nurture). During the early years, especially the first five years of life, the brain is quadrupling in size and can make as many as seven hundred brain connections per second. This is a window of developmental opportunity that will have a major impact on a child’s future abilities.

Each processing system handles specific processing tasks that are geared to accomplish the overall desired goal of the entire system. All of the systems are reciprocally interconnected; dysfunction in one system negatively impacts other systems. A strong overall “Foundational Processing System” is built by constructing processing systems from the ground-up, lower level processing systems to more complex processing systems, because each system relies heavily on the underlying system or systems to function effectively and efficiently.

The entire "Foundational Processing System" must work rapidly and mostly on a subconscious level. If information is not processed fast enough, it clogs up the system with too much information. This causes the information to get stuck and not sent to the higher thinking systems. It must also work mostly on a subconscious level, becaause we can only do one thing at a time consciously and the conscious mind must be available to the thinking systems of the brain.

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Following are brief explanations of the brain systems that form the “Foundational Processing System©" and common symptoms a student will exhibit when a system has a developmental delay..

Sensory Motor Systems

This major processing system is the gatekeeper of information. It is responsible for gathering and filtering sensory information from the environment. Our senses gather hundreds of bits of data every second. The neural networks of the brain cannot handle such a large amount of data all at once, so the majority of sensory data must be filtered out automatically if we want to focus, concentrate and function appropriately.

This system is also responsible for integrating and coordinating sensory information with the motor systems of the brain and body. An individual’s ability to physically perform in the environment with ease is dependent on smooth integration between sensory information and the motor systems of the brain and body.

Following are the processing systems that contribute the most to the functioning of the Sensory Motor System.

Gross Motor System

This processing system coordinates the large muscles of the body for walking, running, jumping, throwing, catching a ball, dance etc. Gross motor development comes fast and natural for some children and slow and difficult for others. Most children who feel awkward and uncoordinated will avoid activities like hopscotch, climbing on the monkey bars, sports and dance etc. and many will remain physically inactive in adulthood, which can lead to poor health. Poor gross motor development can also have a negative effect on a child’s self-concept. Unfortunately children tend to make fun of awkward uncoordinated children, especially boys.

Ocular Motor System

This processing system enables us to follow, scan, locate and fixate on objects with our eyes. It helps us gather a tremendous amount of information in an efficient manner. This system is important when copying information off of the chalkboard, and extremely important in the process of reading. A poorly developed ocular motor system can cause a child to frequently lose their place when reading or have to use their finger to keep their place. This causes poor fluency and attention difficulties when reading, which leads to poor reading comprehension. This system is also extremely important in most all sport activities.

Fine Motor System

This processing system coordinates small muscle movements, especially the coordination of finger movements with the eyes. This system is important in many early academic activities as well as many everyday life tasks. Children with poor fine motor development may have difficulty writing legibly, drawing, turning the pages of a book, cutting with scissors, typing and using a computer. This system is also important in daily everyday activities such as dressing, tying shoes, grooming and eating.

Physical Self-Regulation System

This processing system enables a child to regulate body movements, be calm and still when necessary and control impulses. Children with physical self-regulation difficulties have problems with sitting still, paying attention, concentrating, following rules and instructions and organization. These children also tend to be very impulsive, which means they say or do whatever comes to mind without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Most young children will exhibit some of the above symptoms, but when they are significant it usually leads to academic and social difficulties. Teachers rank self-regulation as the most important competency for early academic success.

Common Symptoms of a Sensory Motor Developmental Delay

A child need not have all or even most of the symptoms listed to have a mild, moderate or severe Sensory Motor Developmental Delay:

  • Clumsiness
  • Poor balance, awkward when running, skipping or hopping
  • Poor posture
  • Difficulty catching, throwing, kicking or hitting a ball
  • Lack of rhythm when trying to keep a beat, dancing or exercising
  • Sloppy writing, drawing, etc.
  • Loses place when reading
  • Difficulty learning new motor tasks (tying shoes, riding a bicycle, typing etc.)
  • Very easily distracted
  • Very short attention span
  • Hyperactive
  • Unpredictable
  • Recklessness
  • Overly sensitive or not sensitive enough to sensory stimuli (touch, sounds etc.)
  • Gets frustrated easily
  • Difficulty learning from mistakes
  • Does not seem to listen
  • Social and emotional difficulties
  • Difficulty sitting still in class
  • Difficulty staying focused on one thing
  • Difficulty working independently
  • Sloppy, incomplete, inaccurate schoolwork
  • Disorganized
  • Completes tasks too quickly or too slowly

Spatial Awareness System

This major processing system enables a child to develop an awareness of both the internal and external space coordinates used to organize and interact with the world around them. An awareness of where you are physically in space is important in the development of balance, body control, motor coordination and internal judgment of direction. This system also enables us to understand and remember the spatial relationships among objects and places, which enables us to solve many tasks in everyday life. For example: this system enables a child to find their way around school or the neighborhood, pack their toys in a container or organize a desk. Spatial Awareness is also very important in decoding letters and learning to read.

Following are the processing systems that contribute the most to the functioning of the Spatial Awareness System.

Laterality System

This processing system enables a child to be self-aware of their left and right body sides and coordinate both sides together. Children with laterality difficulties usually have problems with balance, body control, motor coordination and midline crossing problems that can cause problems writing across a page. They will also reverse letters and numbers. A child must develop laterality before they can develop directionality.

Directionality System

This processing system enables a child to project directions right, left, up, down, ahead, behind, above, and below out into space. Directionality is very important in decoding letters. If you don't have this concept down, learning to read and write can be very difficult. For example, the letters 'b, d, p, and q' all look like the same symbol if you do not have any concept of orientation.

Spatial Recall System

This processing system enables us to store information regarding the location of objects and places in the environment. This system enables us to remember how to find our way around familiar places, know where items are located in your home or other familiar places. It enables us to remember where the letter keys are located on a key board, so we can type efficiently.

Common Symptoms of a Spatial Awareness Developmental Delay

A child need not have all or even most of the symptoms listed to have a mild, moderate or severe Spatial Awareness Developmental Delay:

  • Difficulty with the concepts of right, left, up, down, ahead, behind, above or below
  • Reversals of letters and numbers
  • Difficulty with reading fluency and comprehension
  • Difficulty with finding their way around a relatively new environment
  • Difficulty organizing their environment efficiently
  • Difficulty remembering where things are located
  • Difficulty remembering the details of an experience
  • Difficulty with writing legibly and copying shapes
  • Difficulty remembering where the keys are located on a keyboard
  • Difficulty understanding a map
  • Difficulty judging distances (bumps into things, sets things on edges so they fall off)
  • Difficulty judging the speed of objects
  • Difficulty with most sports and dance activities

Note: Many individuals diagnosed with Autism have a poorly functioning Spatial Awareness System. They do not know where they are in space. The symptoms they develop to cope are rocking, hand-flapping, patting head, toe walking, poor eye contact, social withdrawal, and odd postures.

Perceptual Processing Systems

This major foundational processing system is responsible for identifying and attaching more meaning to sensory information. This entire process must take place quickly and automatically without much conscious thought, for fast and efficient learning to take place. If this system can’t attach much meaning to the data, it filters out the data and the individual shifts attention to something else internally (daydreams) or externally. A weak Perceptual Processing System is a major contributor to attention difficulties in children.

Following are the foundational systems that contribute the most to the functioning of the Perceptual Processing System.

Visual Processing System

This processing system is responsible for identifying and attaching meaning to information taken in through the eyes. This system must be able to identify and compare distinctive features of visual data, including shape, size, color and orientation (Visual Discrimination) and must be able to hold on to visual information long enough to attach meaning to it (Visual Short–Term Recall). Once meaning is attached to the visual information, it is sent to the higher order processing systems in a format that can be used efficiently and effectively. When this system is functioning properly, it is functioning automatically on a subconscious level.

In order for an individual to learn and perform up to their maximum potential, the Visual Processing System must be functioning properly because over eighty percent of what we learn involves some aspect of the Visual Processing System. Also reading is primarily a visual skill and if this system is not functioning properly, good reading fluency and comprehension will be virtually impossible.

Common Symptoms of a Visual Processing Developmental Delay

A child need not have all or even most of the symptoms listed to have a mild, moderate or
severe Visual Processing Delay:

  • Poor attention to details
  • Chronic careless errors
  • Short attention span while reading or doing homework
  • Slow at completing assignments and tests
  • Difficulty recognizing and remembering letters, numbers, symbols, words and pictures
  • Slow reader
  • Difficulty remembering sight words (non-phonetic)
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Avoids reading
  • Difficulty retaining visual information
  • Difficulty following written instructions
  • Difficulty gaining information from pictures, charts or graphs
  • Poor spelling of non-phonetic words
  • Gets frustrated easily with mentally challenging tasks

Auditory Processing System

This processing system is responsible for identifying and attaching meaning to information taken in through the ears. This system must be able to distinguish the differences between auditory data such as the tone, loudness, duration and pitch (Auditory Discrimination) and be able to send auditory information to the receptive language system in the same order it was received (Auditory Sequencing). It also must be able to hold on to auditory information long enough to attach meaning to it (Auditory Short-Term Recall).

In order for an individual to comprehend what is being conveyed orally the Auditory Processing System must be functioning properly.

Common Symptoms of an Auditory Processing Developmental Delay

A child need not have all or even most of the symptoms listed to have a mild, moderate or severe Auditory Processing Delay:

  • Difficulty maintaining attention when being spoken to
  • Tendency to tune out when explanations are being given
  • Constantly asking you to repeat what you’ve said
  • Difficulty following verbal instructions
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Poor language skills
  • Tunes out (short attention span) during verbal interaction and oral lectures
  • Difficulty hearing the differences between similar sounds
  • Difficulty articulating and blending sounds accurately
  • Difficulty remembering what was heard
  • Difficulty remembering the proper order of verbally communicated information
  • Difficulty remembering the content of class lectures
  • Confusion when given verbal instructions
  • Difficulty taking lecture notes
  • Needs to have verbal information repeated over and over before they begin to comprehend

Visual-Auditory Integration System

This processing system enables an individual to coordinate visual information and auditory information into a meaningful product. For example: listening to a teacher explain a diagram or reading facial expressions and processing what an individual is saying at the same time.

Higher Order Processing Systems

This major processing system is responsible for further organizing, analyzing, comprehending, evaluating, categorizing and synthesizing information sent from the lower level processing systems. This highly processed information is then used by the thinking systems to perform intellectually.

Following are the processing systems that contribute the most to the functioning of the Higher Order Processing System.

Working Memory System

This system enables an individual to hold information in their mind while searching stored knowledge that relates to the new information. It is where old and new information come together, which helps us better understand the new information and the overall picture. All the higher order processing systems, attentions systems and thinking systems depend on this system extensively.

Divided Attention System

This processing system enables an individual to divide focus on two or more tasks or activities, so they can complete them simultaneously. An example is taking notes while listening to a lecture. An example of an adult using this system would be driving a car and carrying on a conversation at the same time. This system works very closely with the working memory system. It would be very difficult to multi-task if this system is not functioning properly.

Visualization System

This processing system enables an individual to use imagery as a pathway to thinking. Imagery is a transition phase from imagination, to visualization, to thinking. It enables us to mentally explore ideas and solutions, guide an action, look into the future to help plan ahead and to synthesize information. This system working in conjunction with the working memory system, enable all the higher order processing and thinking systems to work together in an integrated synergistic manner. This system helps us to come up with the best solutions, ideas and concepts and is a primary system that is needed for good reading comprehension to take place.

Unfortunately today many children have poor visualization skills, because flat screens do the visualizing for them. I believe this is a major contributing factor for the epidemic number of children having reading comprehension problems in today’s society.

Common Symptoms of a Higher Order Processing Developmental Delay

A child need not have all or even most of the symptoms listed to have a mild, moderate or severe Higher Order Processing Developmental Delay:

..... • Difficulty sustaining attention on mentally challenging tasks
.... • 
Poor reading comprehension
.... • Difficulty organizing their efforts
.... • Does not do things in the most efficient or effective way
.... • Difficulty learning from mistakes
.... • Acts before contemplating possible consequences of the actions
.... • Difficulty thinking ahead
.... • Difficulty drawing reasonable or logical conclusions from information
.... • Difficulty using acquired knowledge in an efficient and effective way
.... • Difficulty understanding concepts
.... • Difficulty with visualization or producing and manipulating images in the mind’s eye
.... • Difficulty seeing the whole picture
.... • Trouble linking new information to stored knowledge
.... • Difficulty drawing conclusions from information
.... • Difficulty with problem solving
.... • Problem organizing their efforts
.... • Difficulty with multitasking
.... • Difficulty following directions that required visualizing themselves performing each step
.... • Difficulty solving a variety of challenges or problems

Selective Attention System

This major processing system is responsible for allocating and sustaining attention on the task at hand. This system enables us to focus and concentrate even when distractions are present or the task is not that stimulating or interesting. All of the foundational processing systems rely on each other to function most effectively. This is especially true with the Selective Attention System. Weaknesses in any of the underlying foundational processing systems will cause attention and concentration difficulties. Following are some examples:

Sensory Motor System

The Sensory Motor System must function smoothly on a subconscious level and filter out well over 90 percent of incoming irrelevant sensory data automatically at the subconscious level in order for an individual to focus on the task at hand.

Perceptual Processing System

If the Perceptual Processing System cannot process the appropriate incoming sensory data accurately and efficiently enough to extract some meaning out of it, the individual will shift their attention to other external or internal stimuli to avoid the frustration and boredom. Paying attention to something you can’t figure out or make sense out of is not only boring, it is almost impossible. The main symptom of an underdeveloped Perceptual Processing System is a short attention span (daydreaming or tuning out).

Higher Order Processing Systems

If the Higher Order Processing System is weak, attention and concentration will be difficult in most all mentally challenging situations.

Emotional Processing System

Attitude – An individual’s attitude about the learning task determines the quality and quantity of attention devoted to the task.

Self-Concept – If the individual does not have the self-confidence to be successful with the learning task, attention will suffer.

Emotional Self-Regulation – If an individual is anxiety ridden, depressed, fearful or angry, attention will suffer.

Other important components that affect the functioning of the Attention System in a positive way are:

.... • Learning and study strategies that match the individual’s preferred processing and thinking
....  style.
.... • Brain-based teaching strategies used in the classroom that cater to all processing and
.... • thinking styles.
.... • A healthy lifestyle (proper nutrition, sleep and exercise).

Because there can be so many different causes for attention and concentration difficulties, I believe it is nonproductive to lump most children with attention and concentration difficulties into a broad category like AD/HD. Every child is unique with different causes for their attention and concentration difficulties. If you do not try and uncover and strengthen the underlying causes there is no way you can remediate the problem. All you can do is try to lessen the symptoms with accommodations and drugs, which may make a child’s journey to optimize their abilities much more difficult in the long run.