School Psychology

Processing Speed

July 11, 2017

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Time yourself while you solve this Code:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
s i p e n r c g o d


3 6 9 7 4 1 1 2 5 8      1 3 4 4 10

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _       _ _ _ _ _


How long did it take you to solve the code?  If you correctly solved it, you know now the cognitive processing area we are going to discuss this month!

Processing speed is how quickly you take in information, understand it, and formulate a response.  It applies to visual and auditory information.  Processing speed requires many aspects including, planning, persistence, motivation, motor coordination, and ability to perform in timed conditions. This area cannot be built with intervention.

Individuals who have a weakness or deficit in processing speed will typically work at a slower rate, even on simple or rote tasks.  This makes normally automatic tasks more demanding and time-consuming.  For example, copying from the board, finishing assignments, and taking notes can be challenging.  It is important to note that attention is necessary for processing speed to occur.

What might a student with a weakness in processing speed struggle with?

  • Recognizing simple visual patterns
  • Scanning visual information
  • Making simple decisions
  • Basic math calculations
  • Working during timed conditions
  • Reading silently to understand
  • Copying words or sentences

How can this impact academic achievement?

Students with a deficit in processing speed may have difficulty accessing content, processing information, and/or responding.  Executive functioning (e.g., planning, goal setting, time management, organization, etc.) skills may be negatively impacted. Any fluency tasks will be negatively impacted due to the difficulty with working quickly and efficiently.

What strategies can be used in the classroom?

  • Focus on quality rather than quantity and speed. For students who struggle with processing speed, long tasks are extremely difficult and can lead to frustration or boredom.
  • Students with a processing speed deficit will need extra time to show you what they can do
  • You can shorten assignments, especially repetitive work. Try having them complete only the even or odd items.
  • Decrease the amount of writing and copying the student is required to do, especially if the purpose of the lesson is on another subject (e.g., science, math, etc.).
  • A student could take some work home but don’t burden them or penalize them due to their processing speed weakness.
  • Reduce the amount of homework if appropriate
  • Provide copies of notes
  • Give the student a chance to review a question before asking them during an oral discussion
  • To support reading comprehension have the student orally paraphrase information often


I hope this was a quick and speedy overview of processing speed!

Remember don’t give up no matter how long it takes! Sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination.


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