Can My Child Get an IEP for Slow Processing Speed?

ByMelody Musgrove, EdD


My fifth grader has slow processing speed, and intervention hasn’t helped. Will she be able to get an IEP just for her processing speed issues?


Slow processing speed can be very hard on kids. It doesn’t automatically qualify them for an IEP, however. Processing speed issues must impact their ability to learn and perform at school for them to get an IEP based on slow processing speed alone.

An IEP is part of . To get one, your daughter must be evaluated and found to have one of the 13 conditions that qualify as disabilities.

Slow processing speed isn’t one of those conditions. But if it’s having a big impact on your child’s ability to learn, it might fall under something called “other health impairment.” On occasion, a child’s challenges might fall under “” if they’re impacting other areas like math or reading.

Kids with slow processing speed often also have learning disabilities and . From your question, it doesn’t seem like your child does. (Or at least not that you know of.) Either one of those conditions can lead to an IEP.

It also sounds like your daughter’s school used an intervention system like MTSS (multi-tier system of supports) or RTI (response to intervention). Since she’s still struggling, it’s a good idea to have your child evaluated. You can do that at school for free or pay for a private evaluation.

The school needs information from you, too. The more they know about how your child’s issues are affecting her progress at school, they better able they’ll be to provide support. Here are some things to think about and relay to the team:

  • Is your daughter spending hours completing homework every night when other kids can do it much more quickly?

  • Is processing speed an issue all the time or only during school?

  • Have teachers repeatedly reported that she doesn’t finish classwork?

  • Is she beginning to misbehave at school to avoid assignments or to avoid embarrassment because she can’t keep up?

If the school team decides your child does not qualify for an IEP, she may qualify for with a . Accommodations like extra time, shorter assignments, and not having to copy from one paper to another can make a big difference.

Many kids with slow processing speed start to feel bad about themselves and dislike school because of the pressure to work within a certain period of time. It’s important to help your child understand that slow processing speed doesn’t mean she isn’t smart. You can also tell her that it can improve with the right support.

Find out what to do if your child doesn’t qualify for an IEP. You can also learn more about 504 plans and see examples of accommodations for slow processing speed.

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About the author

About the author

Melody Musgrove, EdD served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.