How to Identify Slow Processing Speed in your Child

Posted by Erica Warren on

This week I am thrilled to feature a blog by the Founder and President of LearningWorks for Kids, Randy Kulman, Ph.D. Randy tells us about how to identify slow processing speed in your child.
How to identify slow processing speed in students

How to Identify a Slow Processing Speed in a Learner

It can be very difficult to identify slow processing speed in your child. Many kids who process information slowly, initially appear to be frustrated, unmotivated, and disinterested. A child’s reaction to difficulty in processing information is often more noticeable than the slow pace at which he completes tasks. As a result, many kids with slow processing speed are misidentified as lazy and indifferent about achieving goals. However, the reality is that many of these kids just require more time to take in information, do something with that information in their brain, and then produce a result. They find themselves falling behind their peers, seeming to take forever to do schoolwork, and feeling frustrated in their ability to show what they know.

How to Evaluate Learners for a Slow Processing Speed

If you have a child who is not reaching his or her potential, who is clearly very knowledgeable but performs poorly in school, he or she might be displaying signs of a slow processing speed. If this is the case, the first step is to pursue a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, which can help assess processing speed and other executive-functioning issues that undermine bright kids’ performance in school. Once slow processing speed has been identified as a concern, there are many types of strategies, accommodations, and training techniques that can address this difficulty. While these interventions may not ignite lightning fast speed in your child’s processing, they will likely increase speed of processing and, perhaps more importantly, bring about a positive view on school performance. Understanding slow processing can radically improve a child's sense of self-esteem, willingness to put in the time needed to complete a task, and capacity to see his or her strengths and skills.

Here are a Few Strategies to Help Learners with a Slow Processing Speed

  1. Focus on understanding rather than changing your child: While we have many strategies that can improve processing speed, it is more important that a child not blame himself for going slowly. Instead, help the child understand that some things may simply take longer to do than fellow peers.
  2. Help your child to feel positively about himself: Demonstrate that difficulty in keeping up with the pace of schoolwork and other activities is not the result of a lack of ability or intelligence. Help your child to see many areas in life and work where working slowly and effectively are more important than working quickly.
  3. Use targeted remedial learning tools to improve processing speed: Once you have identified if slow processing speed is related to input of information, actual time needed to think, or output of information, remediation tools can be applied. While these targeted remedial learning tools can gradually improve slow processing speed, accommodations will still be necessary for many kids.
  4. Find technologies that will help your child improve slow processing speed: Twenty-first century kids are fortunate because of the increase in technologies that can improve processing speed (think about processing speed and computers). Some of the best technologies to improve processing speed include keyboards, dictation skills and apps, as well as technologies that help children to time themselves.
  5. Pay attention to the moment: Help your child to focus on work well done rather than fast completion of assignments. At the same time, teach your child strategies for improved task initiation and time management to help with work efficiency. It may also be useful to consult with the school regarding accommodations such as extended time for assignments and tests. Other common approaches in the school setting include reduction in the amount of work that is required, elimination of the need for note taking, and provision of extended time in the classroom for quizzes and test. While all of these accommodations can be useful, it is equally important to help the child recognize the importance of sustained effort and attention.
Happy student
    Clearly, processing speed is an important skill for students to master, and there are many tools and strategies that can assist struggling students master this needed skill.
    Randy is the Founder and President of LearningWorks for Kids , an educational technology company that specializes in using video games to teach executive-functioning and academic skills. For the past 25 years, Dr. Kulman has also been the Clinical Director and President of South County Child and Family Consultants, a multidisciplinary group of private practitioners that specializes in assessment and interventions for children with learning disorders and attention difficulties.

    Additionally, Dr. Kulman is the author of numerous essays and book chapters on the use of digital technologies for improving executive-functioning skills in children. His current research projects include the development of a parent and teacher scale for assessing executive-functioning skills in children and a large survey study examining how children with ADHD and Autism use popular video games and apps. He is an advisor and occasional writer for ADDitude Magazine,, Toca Boca and also writes columns for Inside ADHD and the South County Independent. He is the author of two books; Train Your Brain for 

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