Delayed Processing and The Delayed Effect!


I cannot count the number of times I have had to explain Delayed Processing and the Delayed Effect to Education professionals. Throughout Jay’s time in his mainstream school, before transferring to his specialist one, I found myself in the position of Educator. Even the high end professionals had not heard of this. I must say here that Jay’s mainstream school were wonderful to us and supported us throughout his three years there. Speaking of their lack of knowledge on the above issues is purely to convey the frustration I felt that they had not been taught this as it would have helped so many children. When we left, I said that I hoped that having a child with classic Autism in their school had hopefully taught them about Delayed Processing and the Delayed Effect. So, what is it?

For those who don’t know here goes!

Firstly, the Delayed Processing in children with Autism has a lot to do with the delays associated with the condition. We use all our senses to take in information from our environment and our brains make sense of it. In delayed processing the information is received but doesn’t get processed the same way. Instead, the child can actually process any information from their day at school or at home later than a regular person’s brain would and it can be up to a day or even a week or longer before the information is processed in the child’s brain. The Delayed Effect is the consequence of that wait to processing what has happened to the child, either at school or where ever they were when the information was received. For example: a child at school is absorbing sensory information every moment throughout the day. They are listening, watching, touching things, following instructions and rules and are at every moment demanded of in one way or another. This information has to be processed, for the child to make sense of what is expected of them. Even neurotypical children struggle to cope with all these things being thrown at their minds. However, children with Autism just cannot cope with all these demands at school. Their brains are wired so differently that they can only manage a small amount of information at a time. But what do we find in mainstream schools? Demands and pressure! Lots of noise and staff and children all speaking at once! Lots of sights and tasks to process, and also behaviour and rule compliance. All these things collide within them and they just cannot handle it. When all these things get too much they either meltdown or shutdown and cannot do any more.

Then we come to Delayed Effect. It is the parents that see this effect on the child returning home from school. Now I will use an example given to me by a professional who works with us, and compare this situation to a Cola bottle. If you shake a Cola bottle over and over again it will build up immense pressure inside it. This reaction will continue to grow until you release the pressure by taking off the lid. Then what happens? It explodes and erupts everywhere and this is how the Delayed Effect feels to children like Jay! They release the frustration and the sensations they have been feeling all day and they do this for the person whom they feel the safest with -their parent!

There were many times with Jay when this would happen to us. At one point, in year 2 Jay was having these meltdowns every single night and all weekend too. Basically all his vent up frustration hurt and anger at not being able to compute all what was expected of him, would build up as he “held it together ” at school for his teachers and it would all come out on returning to his “safe place” and his “safe people.” The good thing was Jay rarely lost it at school, although he came close many times and would show constant anxiety. He also developed severe OCD ( obsessional compulsive disorder) as a means of coping in school with demands. He would turn lights on and off ,repeatedly close and open doors and drawers and turn books around and move objects, he also insisted on the teacher shutting her cupboard or he would cry because she hadn’t or because the doors were open. Our child Psychologist said it was a way of Jay being able to control his environment when he, himself, felt out of control.

Jay also has shown evidence of the delay in his processing of information and one example I can tell you of, was a year ago when his cousin was playing at our home.  Both Jay and G were playing and as they came down the stairs as G tripped over. She bumped her nose and it began to bleed. Jay reacted to this by laughing. Now please don’t think that means he is unkind because it was not that. It was because he had not processed the event. Now, G was fine and recovered however a week later I was putting Jay to bed and he said ” mummy G is hurt”  I said, G isn’t here darling. He then said ” oh no G is hurt she bleed poor G she crying” and he spoke in a sympathetic tone showing he did care. He repeated this for days, every night before bed he would talk about it trying to make sense of it. This event had not been processed at the time it happened instead, over a week later he had finally connected with the event and showed his true emotions about it!

The Autistic brain is an amazing place! We must not confuse Delayed Processing with memory though! Jay’s memory is out of this world! He was saying 13 versed poems at four even though he never spoke to us. He remembered places he had visited at two when he was 7 and, as I said in my Blog introduction, Jay can recite every main moon in our solar system and which Planet they belong to! WOW! What a memory! Like I said the mysteriously fascinating world of the Autistic mind! Jay’s mind is a labyrinth of beautiful tunnels each leading in different directions to locations that make his brain illuminous and clever and unique!


Next Time: Making Relationships, Sleep and Stims!

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