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  • Writer's pictureChelsea DiMarzio

Beyond Dyslexia: Reduced Processing Speed

Welcome to the latest installment of our series, Beyond Dyslexia. Today, we are jumping into the topic of reduced processing speed in children. This often-overlooked aspect of learning can profoundly impact a child's academic performance and overall well-being. In this blog, we'll explore what reduced processing speed is, how it affects reading, how it manifests in children, who can identify it, and what interventions are available to support affected children.


*In certain text or clinical reports, reduced processing speed may be referred to as processing speed deficit or slow processing speed. Within this blog, it will be referred to as reduced processing speed.





Understanding Reduced Processing Speed


Reduced processing speed can be likened to a computer that takes longer to access information or a filing cabinet where it takes longer to locate specific documents. Just as a computer with slower processing speed may take longer to load web pages or run applications, children with reduced processing speed may experience delays in processing and responding to information in academic settings. Similarly, imagine searching for a particular document in a filing cabinet—it may take longer to find what you're looking for as you sort through each file. Children with reduced processing speed may take longer to retrieve and process information, impacting their ability to complete tasks efficiently and effectively.


Reduced processing speed can impact various aspects of their academic performance, such as reading fluency, comprehension, and mathematical problem-solving. It's important to remember that children who have reduced processing speed are still very capable of learning and completing tasks, it may take them longer to process and respond to information compared to their peers.


Impact on Reading and Academics


Children with reduced processing speed may exhibit a range of behaviors and challenges in academic and everyday situations. In the classroom, they may take longer to complete assignments, struggle with timed tests, and require additional time to process verbal instructions. Outside of school, they may have difficulty following conversations, processing complex information, and completing tasks that require quick decision-making or problem-solving.


Here are a few more examples:


  • Reading: A child with reduced processing speed may take significantly longer to read a passage compared to their peers. They may struggle to decode words, leading to frequent pauses and hesitations while reading. As a result, they may be unable to finish reading assignments within the allotted time, impacting their academic performance. Additionally, children with reduced processing speed may struggle to keep pace with their peers, leading to difficulties in decoding words, comprehending text, and following along in class readings. They may require more time to process each word or sentence, leading to frustration and fatigue during reading tasks.


  • Mathematics: In math class, a child with reduced processing speed may take longer to solve arithmetic problems or complete multi-step calculations. They may require extra time to process the information presented in word problems, leading to difficulty in understanding and solving them accurately.

  • Following Directions: During classroom activities, a child with reduced processing speed may struggle to follow verbal instructions quickly. They may need repeated explanations or additional time to process the information before completing tasks, which can lead to delays in completing assignments or participating in group activities.


  • Writing: When writing essays or completing written assignments, a child with reduced processing speed may take longer to organize their thoughts and formulate coherent sentences. They may struggle to express themselves fluently, resulting in slower writing speed and difficulty meeting deadlines for completing assignments.


  • Social Interactions: In social settings, a child with reduced processing speed may have difficulty keeping up with conversations or processing social cues in real-time. They may struggle to respond quickly to questions or engage in fast-paced discussions, leading to feelings of frustration or isolation during social interactions.


These are just a few examples of how reduced processing speed can manifest in children across various academic and social contexts. It's essential to recognize that each child is unique, and their experiences with reduced processing speed may vary. By understanding these challenges and providing appropriate support, we can help children with reduced processing speed thrive academically and socially.



Identifying and Diagnosing Reduced Processing Speed


Teachers, parents, and healthcare professionals play key roles in identifying reduced processing speed in children. Teachers may notice that a student consistently takes longer to complete assignments or struggles to keep up with classroom activities. Parents may observe similar difficulties at home, such as delays in completing chores or difficulty following multistep instructions.


By combining these observations with testing, healthcare professionals, such as psychologists or educational diagnosticians, can conduct assessments to diagnose and evaluate processing speed deficits. This assessment may include standardized tests, observations, and interviews to assess the child's cognitive abilities, academic performance, and processing speed relative to their peers. A diagnosis of reduced processing speed may be made if the child consistently demonstrates slower processing abilities across multiple domains.


Interventions for Reduced Processing Speed


Interventions for reduced processing speed focus on providing targeted support to help children overcome challenges and develop compensatory strategies. These interventions may include:


  • Extended Time: Providing additional time for completing assignments, tests, and other academic tasks to accommodate the child's slower processing speed.

  • Multisensory Learning: Utilizing multisensory teaching methods that engage multiple senses to enhance learning and retention of information.

  • Assistive Technology: Introducing assistive technology tools, such as speech-to-text software or audio recordings, to help children access and process information more efficiently.

  • Executive Functioning Skills Training: Teaching executive functioning skills, such as organization, time management, and task prioritization, to help children manage their workload and improve productivity.

  • Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Plans: Collaborating with educators to develop individualized education plans that outline accommodations and support strategies tailored to the child's specific needs.


Reduced processing speed can present significant challenges for children in various aspects of their lives, including academic performance and social interactions. However, with early recognition and appropriate support, children with reduced processing speed can learn to navigate their challenges and achieve academic success. By working closely with educators, healthcare professionals, and parents, we can ensure that every child receives the support they need to thrive. Stay tuned for more insights and resources in our Beyond Dyslexia series.

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