Having slow processing speed has nothing to do with how smart kids are — just how quickly they can take in and use information. If you’ve just learned your child has slow processing speed, these steps can help you understand what that means and how you can help.
Learn all you can about processing speed.
Processing speed is the pace at which your child takes in information, makes sense of it, and begins to respond. This information can be visual, such as letters and numbers. It can also be auditory, such as spoken language.
Find answers to your questions about slow processing speed and learn how brain structure and chemistry can affect processing speed.
Investigate potential treatments and therapies for slow processing speed.
Read an expert’s explanation on how processing speed can improve. Talk to your child’s doctor, school, and specialists about ways to help your child improve processing speed, such as working on organization, time management, and planning skills. An organizational coach may also be able to help with these skills.
Discuss supports and services with the school.
Schedule a meeting with the school to talk about whether your child is eligible for special education services. Bring any reports you may have from doctors or specialists. These could help with the or process, which would allow your child to get accommodations for slow processing speed. The school may have done its own evaluation, too. (If not, find out how to request a free educational evaluation.)
Keep in mind that slow processing speed on its own typically doesn’t make a child eligible for an IEP or a 504 plan. But slow processing speed can go hand in hand with other learning and thinking differences that do qualify. Find out what to do if you’re concerned your child may have a learning or thinking difference.
If your child doesn’t qualify for supports at school, you may have to demonstrate to your child’s teachers how much your child’s processing speed is affecting their school performance. Together you can discuss informal supports that can help in the classroom. (Read one mom’s story of how informal supports helped her daughter go from F’s to A’s.)
Teach your child to self-advocate.
It’s key for your child to develop the ability to speak up for what they need, both in and out of school. Help your child recognize their strengths and challenges. Then talk about what self-advocacy can look like in grade school, middle school, and high school. Helping your child come up with a self-advocacy script can be a good way to start.
Understand the possible emotional impact.
It’s not uncommon for kids with slow processing speed to experience anxiety. Read about the connection between slow processing speed and anxiety, and how to help. Learn about the signs of anxiety and depression at different ages. Don’t wait to contact your child’s doctor if you have concerns.
Find ways to help with slow processing speed at home.
It may take kids who struggle with processing speed a lot longer than other kids to perform tasks in daily life. Hear from one parent who learned to respect her son’s processing speed and change the pace of life at home. And explore a collection of tips to help kids work through everyday challenges, including organization, managing time, and daily routines.
Stay in touch with the school.
This can help you keep an eye on whether supports and services are working. Keep in mind that you may have to remind teachers that processing speed can vary from task to task. So while your child may be fast with one task, they may work more slowly on another. For instance, they may need help keeping up with note-taking. If so, you could share these note-taking strategies for kids with slow processing speed.
Visit your local Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to learn about other potential services near you.
About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Ellen Braaten, PhD is a child psychologist, professor, and founding director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital.