Some kids are naturally fast. They run, talk, complete homework assignments, and do all sorts of things at a rate that seems appropriate for their age. Other kids don’t, or perhaps it would be fairer to say they can’t. These are kids who may have what are known as processing speed deficits.
Processing speed involves one or more of the following functions: the amount of time it takes to perceive information, process information, and formulate or enact a response. Another way to define processing speed is to say that it’s the time required to perform an intellectual task or the amount of work that can be completed within a certain period. Even simpler, one can define processing speed as to how long it takes to get stuff done.
There are three main components of processing speed (Burgess, 2016):
- visual processing: how quickly a student’s eyes perceive information and relay it to the brain (such as reading directions or noticing a teacher’s hand gestures)
- auditory processing: how quickly a student hears a stimulus and reacts to it (such as following oral instructions or participating in a discussion)
- motor speed: how strong a student’s fine-motor agility is, leading to academic fluency (such as filling out timed math worksheets)
Deficits in cognitive skills are said to affect the learning process significantly. Educators and parents should acknowledge this, be on the lookout for abnormal cognitive development, and ensure the successful development of these skills. Processing speed is one of the main components of cognition and is crucial in learning, academic performance, intellectual development, reasoning, and experience.
Slow processing speed and learning disabilities
Slow processing speed is not a formal learning disability, but it can play a part in learning and attention issues like dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and auditory processing disorder.
When a student is slow at processing, certain academic tasks can take them longer to do than the average student. According to the authors of Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up, “processing speed does interact with other areas of cognitive functioning by negatively impacting the ability to quickly come up with an answer, retrieve information from long-term memory, and remember what you’re supposed to be doing at a given time” (Braaten and Willoughby, 2014, p.4).
Evidence suggests that processing speed problems are a major underlying factor in both reading disability and ADHD, as the two disorders often go hand in hand (Shanahan et al., 2006). Studies also suggest the slow reading and slow motor responses often seen in those with dyslexia may be related to poorer processing speed (Stoodley and Stein, 2006).
Improving processing speed
The key to improving processing speed lies in making stronger connections in the brain, which allow brain signals to travel at higher speeds. To investigate the effectiveness of Edublox in improving processing speed, educational specialist Dr. Lee DeLorge in Ohio put the program to the test. Sixty-seven students aged 5 to 18 with ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and non-specific learning disabilities participated in her study. Ninety-four percent of the students improved significantly. Results were as follows:
- Thirty-five students with ADHD showed a combined increase of 52.45 percent, from a pre-test average of 37.24 percent to a post-test average of 89.69 percent.
- Thirteen dyslexic students showed a combined increase of 46.76 percent, from a pre-test average of 41.31 percent to a post-test average of 88.07 percent.
- Two students were diagnosed with dyscalculia and showed a combined increase of 57.38 percent, from a pre-test average of 39.76 percent to a post-test average of 97.14 percent.
- The remaining learners were non-specific learning-disabled and showed a combined increase of 64.14 percent, from a pre-test average of 30.40 percent to a post-test average of 94.54 percent.
In an interview broadcast in February 2011 on WKYC, a television station located in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. DeLorge explained cognitive skills and how Edublox methodology strengthens a child’s cognitive skills.
Edublox specializes in educational interventions that make children smarter, help them learn and read faster, and do mathematics with ease. Our programs enable learners to overcome reading difficulties and other learning obstacles, assisting them to become lifelong learners and empowering them to realize their highest educational goals.
Braaten, E., & Willoughby, B. (2014). Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up. Help Your Child Overcome Slow Processing Speed and Succeed in a Fast-Paced World. Guilford Press: New York.
Shanahan, M. A., Pennington, B. F., Yerys, B. E., Scott, A., Boada, R., Willcutt, E. G., Olson, R. K., & DeFries, J. C. (2006). Processing speed deficits in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and reading disability. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 584-601.
Stoodley, C. J., & Stein, J. F. (2006). A processing speed deficit in dyslexic adults? Evidence from a peg-moving task. Neuroscience Letters, 399, 264-267.