Processing Speed is the time it takes a person to see or hear something – understand what it is – and respond to that information.

To understand processing speed a little better, let’s take a look at reading, as an example. When a person looks at a page or a screen, their eyes recognize that letters are joining together to form words. The brain tries to recall what the words are. If a word is unfamiliar, the brain will fall back on trying to sound out the word to make sense of it. Once the brain recognizes the word, it then has to retrieve the meaning of the word. The brain repeats this entire process for the next word in the sentence.

For most people, this retrieval of word knowledge happens so quickly that you aren’t even aware of the incredibly fast processing speed your brain is operating at. For others, the struggle is real – and it’s humbling.

Slow processing speed isn’t a function of low IQ. It can affect all kinds of people.

Problems You Might See with Low Processing Speed

  • Transcribing a lecture into written notes
  • Matching visual information
  • Scanning information to pick out details
  • Fine motor skills, such as handwriting
  • Maintaining attention for a long period of time
  • Slow reading and/or writing
  • Poor math fluency (e.g., times tables, “minute math”)
  • Difficulty with timed tasks

Low processing speed cannot be cured, but you can offer support to students who are having difficulty with academic achievement because their work pace is slower than expected.

How You Can Help Your Child with Low-Processing Speed

  • Schedule in extra time to complete tasks
  • Focus on accuracy over speed
  • Assign fewer problems to complete
  • Develop note-taking skills that emphasize abbreviations
  • Use audiobooks
  • Use calendars and timers to self-alert to deadlines
  • Minimize clerical tasks, such as copying problems out of a book, when possible

Finally, it’s important to remenber that a child with low processing speed is not being defiant or disobedient when they take a long time to finish an assignment. If you see that the are staying on task, then offer encouragement and let them know you recognize their hardwork.

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Last modified on September 3, 2023