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Speed Matters: Understanding the Importance of Processing Speed

Processing speed is a cognitive ability that refers to the speed and efficiency with which an individual can perform mental tasks, such as perceiving, recognizing, and responding to information.

🧠Specifically, processing speed is the ability to quickly and accurately process information, and make decisions based on that information.

🧠For students, processing speed can affect how quickly they can complete tasks and assignments, and how well they can keep up with classroom instruction. Students with slower processing speed may take longer to read and comprehend texts, solve math problems, write essays, and complete other academic tasks. They may also have difficulty following complex instructions, organizing their thoughts, and staying focused.

🧠Processing speed is a key component of many cognitive abilities, including attention, working memory, and executive function. Difficulties with processing speed can impact a student's overall academic performance and achievement.

However, it's important to note that processing speed is just one aspect of cognitive function, and that students with slower processing speed can still be successful with appropriate accommodations, strategies, and support.

Behind the Curve: How Processing Speed Deficits Can Affect Performance in Many Areas of Life and How We Can Help?

Slow processing speed can affect students in various areas of their academic and daily lives. Here are some common areas where slow processing speed may show up in students:


Students with slow processing speed may struggle to keep up with reading assignments, especially when they encounter complex or lengthy texts. They may take longer to process and comprehend the information, which can make it difficult for them to finish reading assignments on time.

How Can We Help with Reading?

  • Provide audio books or other assistive technology to help students with slow processing speed keep up with reading assignments.

  • Teach active reading strategies, such as highlighting or note-taking, to help students focus and retain information.

  • Encourage the use of reading guides or summaries to help students better understand and process complex texts.


Slow processing speed can also affect a student's ability to write essays or complete written assignments. These students may take longer to organize their thoughts, plan their writing, and express their ideas coherently.

How Can We Help with Writing?

  • Provide explicit instruction on the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. Offer checkpoints throughout this process.

  • Discuss ideas and help students visualize their task prior to writing. Use graphic organizers to help students organize these thoughts and ideas before starting to draft.

  • Allow for extended time on written assignments to accommodate slow processing speed.


Students with slow processing speed may have difficulty completing math problems or following multi-step instructions. They may take longer to process and solve problems, which can make it difficult for them to finish math assignments in a timely manner.

How Can We Help With Math?

  • Use visual aids, such as diagrams or graphs, to help students better understand mathematical concepts.

  • Break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable steps.

  • Encourage the use of math manipulatives, such as blocks or counters, to help students visualize and solve problems.


Slow processing speed can also impact a student's ability to pay attention and stay focused. These students may struggle to keep up with lectures or classroom discussions, and may need more time to process information before they can fully engage in class.

How Can We Help With Attention?

  • Break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. By doing this, you can help reduce the cognitive load on the student, which can in turn help them focus better and avoid becoming overwhelmed.

  • Providing visual aids and hands-on activities can also help keep their attention focused and engaged.

  • It's also important to provide regular breaks and opportunities for movement throughout the day, as this can help improve attention and overall cognitive function.


Students with slow processing speed may also have difficulty remembering information, such as facts, dates, or concepts. They may need more time to review and practice new material in order to commit it to long-term memory.

How Can We Help With Memory?

  • When you're asking your students questions, remember that giving them enough time to process and respond is key. By allowing for sufficient wait time, you give them the opportunity to carefully consider their answer and demonstrate their knowledge. So before assuming that they don't know or don't want to answer, make sure you're offering plenty of wait time to help them shine!

Identifying and Supporting Slow Processing Speed Across Different Areas of Life

Social interactions

  • Students with slow processing speed may struggle with social interactions, such as understanding jokes or sarcasm, or following conversations.

  • Teachers can help by providing opportunities for one-on-one interactions with students, such as during office hours or after class.

Sports or physical activities

  • Slow processing speed can impact a student's ability to react quickly or make split-second decisions, which can be a challenge in sports or other physical activities.

  • Teachers can help by providing opportunities for students to practice and build skills in a low-pressure environment, such as during practice or in small groups.

  • It may also be helpful to provide visual aids or other supports to help students understand and execute complex movements or strategies.

Daily routines

  • Slow processing speed can make it difficult for students to complete daily tasks in a timely manner, such as getting dressed or packing their backpack.

  • Teachers and parents can help by providing clear and consistent routines, breaking tasks down into smaller steps, and allowing extra time for students to complete tasks.

  • Visual aids, such as checklists or pictures, can also be helpful for students who struggle with processing speed.

Promoting Success and Confidence in Students by Addressing the Challenges of Slow Processing Speed

Although processing speed deficits can present significant challenges for students, with the right support from parents and teachers, they can still achieve great success. By understanding the impact of slow processing speed on learning and implementing effective strategies to accommodate it, we can help students reach their full potential and feel confident in their abilities. With patience, encouragement, and a willingness to adapt, we can create a learning environment that empowers all students to succeed.

If this article was helpful, please like - share - comment! I love feedback!

Check out my IG post below all about processing speed and the brain.

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