What Is a 'Slow Processing Speed?'


"Our son is bright, but an educational assessment found that he has a 'slow processing speed.' What does that mean?"


ADDitude Answers

Slow processing speed means that he takes a bit longer than other kids his age to make sense of the information he takes in. He might have trouble assimilating written or spoken information, or take longer to answer questions or finish tests. This is not a matter of intelligence, as you know, but it does make it hard for him to demonstrate his knowledge.

The school psychologist or therapist who assessed your son should be able to recommend specific accommodations—extra time on tests, shortened homework assignments, getting written as well as spoken instructions, and so on. Bear in mind that processing deficits like your son’s tend to be primarily auditory or primarily visual. Thus, the challenges he’ll face—and the interventions that will prove most helpful—are determined by the specific nature of his problem.

Posted by Dr. Clare Jones
ADDitude's Education Expert

ADDitude Answers

Many kids with ADHD also have slow processing speed. Read this article with tactics to improve brain speed that help some people with ADHD: More Attention, Less Deficit: Brain Training Systems

I first learned 3-2-1 Magic to help when relating to my son. The trick is to count to 5 silently in your head between every number when you count down for your child. This gives him extra time to process instructions. Once I started doing that, counting down a warning did work like magic when it hadn’t worked at all before. You can use this trick any time you say something to your child to give him extra time to process.

Here are more resources on slow processing:

> Executive Function Disorder

> 12 Ways to Make Instructions Sink In

Posted by Penny Williams
ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

For my son, it means that at home, I have to make sure I speak slowly and don’t give more than one or two directions at once. His working memory is very poor.

He requires repetition to learn anything. You just have to accept it for what it is. There was grieving for me as a parent.

It has rattled him at school. We just keep everything an open topic, and as long as he is working hard and trying his best, that is good enough.

Hang in there!

Posted by PDXLaura

A Reader Answers

Slow processing speed is a real issue, and you should seek accommodations at your son’s school to help. My son has extremely slow processing speed. On math tests, he simply couldn’t work fast enough to get through all the questions, and if he rushed he would make mistakes. I explained the situation to his math teacher, and she agreed to give him a shortened version of the test—for example, if the test had 3 sections, each with 3 questions, he would get 3 sections each with 2 questions. The results were striking, he went from struggling to being an A student. Good luck!

Posted by Fortuna33

A Reader Answers

It just means his brain needs a little extra time to catch up sometimes. Look into neurofeedback for “rewiring” the brain. Thirty years of research means the science behind it supports results so that insurance is beginning to pay for this therapy.

Don’t discount your son's brain because of the slow processing speed. When my daughter was tested in 3rd grade, all her scores were in the upper 90th percentiles, but her processing speed was something in the 40’s. Nonetheless she has improved enough to get a very good score on the ACT in 7th grade, without additional time allowed. Consider looking into an IEP or a 504 plan to help accommodate your son's slower thinking speed.

Posted by Katherine85

This question was asked on the ADDConnect forums. Read the original discussion here.


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Dr. Clare Jones was an educational consultant in Scottsdale, Arizona, respected throughout the psychological community for her work with ADHD children and adults. She passed away in late 2006 and is truly missed.
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