What is slow processing speed?

An adult helps a child with homework. The child holds their head with one hand and writes with the other.

At a glance

  • Processing speed is how long it takes someone to get something done.

  • Some people take longer to process information than others.

  • Slow processing speed isn’t related to intelligence.

Slow processing speed is when people need a lot of time to take in, make sense of, and respond to information. The information can be visual, like letters or numbers. It can also be auditory, like spoken language. 

Having slow processing speed can create frequent challenges at school, on the job, and in social situations. 

For example, young kids may struggle to master the basics of reading, writing, and counting. People of all ages may have trouble doing tasks quickly and accurately. They often have a hard time remembering new information.

Interacting with others can also be tricky. People with slow processing speed may stand silently for a few seconds before responding to someone. Or they might take a long time to explain something. 

Slow processing speed has nothing to do with how smart people are — just how quickly they take in and use information. Still, having this challenge can create a lot of anxiety and take a toll on self-esteem. 

Slow processing speed fact sheetPDF

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About the author

About the author

Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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