Advanced Pediatric Therapies

Kid-Powered

Slow Processing Speed: What it is, and What it isn’t

on March 14, 2019

Slow processing speed is a condition in which a child has trouble keeping up with classroom learning.  The speed at which the material is presented is too fast for them to adequately integrate.  A child with slow processing speed may have problems following directions in an accurate and timely manner, be frustrated with classroom assignments/homework and may take an inordinately long time to complete tasks like picking out clothes, cleaning their room or finding a toy.

girl drawing on brown wooden table

Photo by Jena Backus on Pexels.com

Slow processing speed in and of itself is not a learning disability.  However, it contributes to problems in existing learning disabilities such as auditory processing disorder, ADD and dyslexia.  Slow processing speed can give rise to difficulty initiating tasks/projects, staying focused on the project and also being able to adjust their effort during the project.  For these reasons, it also impacts executive functioning skills.

Kids who are slow processors are often mistaken for not being smart, but it is their ability to take in information at a reasonable pace that is the problem, not their intelligence.  In the classroom, they have difficulty completing multi-step assignments, writing long papers, completing projects within an allotted time, listening and taking notes.  They may become emotionally overwhelmed and anxious with too much going on at once as they are unable to slow down their environment.

If you suspect that your child has slow processing speed, speak to your child’s teacher to see if they have noticed the same problems you have.  You might decide together to have your child tested at the school to see if accommodations can help (such as shorter tests and tests that aren’t timed).

In the meantime, give your child extra time to complete tasks and answer questions.  See if that helps alleviate some frustration.  If you have other children, anticipate that your child with slow processing speed may need an earlier wake up time, earlier warnings for transitions and more time to do chores.  They may need things repeated over and over again, which may be frustrating for you, but it is helpful to them.  The most important thing is that teachers and caregivers are aware of the problem.

Check out this slow processing speed fact sheet on Understood.org.  There is research going on as to why this happens in the brain, but there is no reason why kids with slow processing speed can’t learn, go to college and have successful careers and relationships.


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