What is Processing Speed?

KoolMinds Team
Processing speed is the pace at which we take in information, make sense of it, and begin to respond. It is the ability of the brain to respond within a given time frame. Processing speed can be impacted across three main areas including visual, verbal, and motor.

Slow processing speed is a term that describes difficulty in getting certain tasks completed in a given period of time. It is not an issue of intelligence or laziness; it just means that you process information slowly. 

Signs of Slow Processing Speed

Slow processing speed is a lifelong challenge and the signs can look different for different ages. Some of the common signs that you may notice among individuals with slow processing speed include:
  • Needs more time to make decisions and give answers
  • Needs to read information multiple times to understand it
  • Will often miss social cues
  • Has difficulty following directions and routines
  • Has difficulty finishing tasks on time or in a reasonable amount of time
  • Is overwhelmed by being given too much information at once

Causes of Slow Processing Speed

  • Genes. Slow processing speed can be inherited from your parent, grandparent or another close relative.
  • Disorders. Slow processing speed can happen on its own, but it often co-occurs with dyslexia, ADHD, executive functioning challenges, and anxiety. Conditions like high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes can also be a culprit. It can also be caused by head trauma and neurodegenerative illness.
  • Brain-Based Factors. There are several brain-based factors that contribute to slow processing speed. There is some evidence that decreased volume in the frontal lobe is related to speed of processing. Other factors that contribute to slow processing speed include: the composition of the neurons in the brain, lower amounts of myelin in the neuron’s surroundings, neurotransmitters in the brain, and the size of the space between neurons, called the synaptic spaces, is also suspected to be a cause of slow processing speed. 
  •  Age. Processing speed normally slows with age. The reason for this isn't fully understood but there is reliable evidence that it results from the wear of the white matter in the brain. 

How to Help with Processing Speed

  • Practice a specific skill. Research shows that repeating a task makes it become more automatic and faster to process.
  • Start routines early. This will help you avoid rushing and feeling anxious.
  • Learn to be more efficient. Look for strategies that can help you become more efficient.
  • Allow more time. Provide extended time for tests and assignments.
  • Improve planning/organization skills. This can help you be more efficient at routine tasks. Keep a log of how long it takes to certain tasks/projects. Try to keep things consistent and predictable so that there is less new information to process. 



What Is Slow Processing Speed?
Bright Kids Who Can't Keep Up

If you or your child struggle with slow processing speed, contact KoolMinds today to find out how we can help!

[i] Braaten, E., PhD. (2021, March 22). Slow Processing Speed: Signs & Solutions for a Misunderstood Deficit. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/slow-processing-speed-adhd-interventions/
[ii] Clark, A. (2021, January 21). Signs of slow processing speed at different ages. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/signs-of-slow-processing-speed-at-different-ages
[iii] Kelly, K. (2021, May 19). What is slow processing speed? https://www.understood.org/articles/processing-speed-what-you-need-to-know
[iv] Kulman, R. (2017, July 3). What Causes Slow Processing Speed? - LearningWorks for Kids. LearningWorks for Kids. https://learningworksforkids.com/2017/07/causes-slow-processing-speed/
[v] T. (2023, February 15). What Causes Slow Processing Speed? Here Are 4 Reasons - Tomvad. Tomvad. https://tomvad.com/what-causes-slow-processing-speed-here-are-4-reasons/#:~:text=But%2C%20what%20causes%20the%20slow%20processing%20speed%20in,reason%20a%20child%20might%20exhibit%20slow%20processing%20speed.

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