When Processing Speed Slows You Down

September 14, 2016 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

Most of my young clients who are twice-exceptional have neuropsychological assessment scores that highlight a variety of slow processing speeds. That asynchrony between their intellectual abilities and their processing issues leads some parents and teachers to label these kids as lazy, willful, or inattentive.

Although these are common issues for kids who are twice-exceptional, few parents or teachers have the necessary training to recognize and then accommodate for these processing speed variations.

I was fortunate to find the book Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up by Ellen Braaten, h.D. and Brian Willoughby, Ph.D. Braaten is the Director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Willoughby is a staff Psychologist at the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.

As the authors say, “In general, though, processing speed involves one or more of the following functions: the amount of time it takes to perceive information (this can be through any of the senses, but usually through the visual and auditory channels), process information, and/or formulate or enact a response. Another way to define processing speed is to say it’s the time required to perform an intellectual task or the amount of work that can be completed with a certain period of time. Even more simply, processing speed could be defined as how long it takes to get stuff done.”

The authors break processing speeds into three categories: visual processing (“how quickly our eyes perceive information and relay it to the brain”), verbal processing (“how quickly we hear a stimulus and react to it”), and motor speed (“fine motor agility, such as how fast we can copy something or put pegs in a board, rather than to how fast someone can run, for example”).

Processing speed issues are often an indication of other learning challenges including:

  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Nonverbal learning disabilities
  • Language-based learning disabilities
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosocial stressors

Most kids who have slow processing speed may share some of these common issues:

  • Slow reading
  • Slow writing
  • Slow responses to questions
  • Slow responses to requests
  • Poor memory recall
  • Slow completion of work
  • Appear unmotivated or apathetic
  • Appear to be fidgety

For lots of detailed information on processing speed in the classroom and at home, this book is a wonderful resource.

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Entry filed under: Gifted Children, Parenting Gifted Children, Processing Speed, Twice-Exceptional. Tags: , , , , .

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