Student with a slow work pace? Poor processing speed?

June 15, 2014

Processing speed relates to an individual’s ability to perform simple repetitive cognitive tasks quickly and automatically.[1] Schneider, W. J., & McGrew, K. (2012). The Cattell-Horn-Carroll model of intelligence. In, D. Flanagan & P. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary … Continue reading. Issues with processing speed only become evident once a person knows how to do a task, rather than in the initial learning phase.[2] ibid  This is because processing speed relates to the speed and ease of performing learnt tasks. It is the speed and fluency of processing information that is impaired, not the child’s knowledge and understanding

Affected children have a slow work pace. For example, two children might be equally accurate when spelling, however when asked to spell a particular word, the child with poor processing speed will need to think longer to answer correctly. 

As you may have observed, this inability to process information as quickly as peers, can lead to significant learning, academic and social difficulties.

Ways to support the child with poor processing speed in the classroom include:

  • Reduce the volume of class work, homework, tests and exams. Ensure you are reducing the volume and not the difficulty. The aim is to help the child to produce quality work not quantity. 
  • Allow more time. Wait several seconds or more before expecting the child to answer questions, so they can organise their thinking. This extra time can help the child to process the question, and retrieve or formulate an answer. It can be helpful to give the child advance warning of questions and tasks. For written tasks and assignments, it may be necessary to allow up to double the time allowed for most other children.

In addition to the points above, there is some evidence that processing speed can be improved with training.[3] Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Hashizume, H., Sassa, Y., Nagase, T., Nouchi, R. & Kawashima, R. (2011). ‘Effects of Training of Processing Speed on … Continue reading [4] Edwards, J.D., Wadley, V.G., Vance, D.E., Wood, K., Roenker, D.L. & Ball, K.K. (2005). ‘The impact of speed of processing training on … Continue reading 

  • Use individualised timed activities with the student to increase speed and automaticity of basic numeracy and literacy skills. For example, some online educational maths games and flash cards can help with automatic recall of basic maths facts and calculations, and recognition of sight words. See Oxford word lists and the Psych4Schools ebooklet Working with children with dyscalculia for maths resources. 

For more information and classroom strategies:Members see Working with children with poor processing speed’ ebooklet. 

Non-members: read an excerpt of the ebooklet, become a member  or purchase the ebooklet from our online store