If your child takes a lot longer than other kids to respond to directions or do certain tasks, you may be concerned about slow processing speed.
Processing speed is the pace at which you take in information, make sense of it, and start to respond. This can be verbal information, like what people say. It might be visual information, like letters and numbers. Kids may also struggle with movement.
Here are signs of slow processing speed in kids at different ages.
Slow processing speed in preschool
Has trouble following directions with multiple steps
Takes a long time to copy down their name
Struggles to answer questions, especially when asked something over the phone
Often stares off into space during circle time
Takes longer than other kids the same age to figure out how to use a piece of paper and a pencil
Can’t seem to get out the door in the morning because things take so long, like putting on a coat
Slow processing speed in grade school
Takes a very long time to copy down notes in class
Can’t finish homework in a reasonable amount of time
Has trouble understanding what’s happening in busy settings (like on the playground at recess), because there are so many things happening at once
Can’t make up their mind quickly, like deciding what to eat for breakfast or whether a friend should come over after school
Struggles with timed tests (like minute-math quizzes), then rushes and makes careless errors
Struggles to follow conversations and respond when friends ask questions
Slow processing speed in middle school
Has a hard time taking notes when the teacher is speaking
Struggles to follow fast-paced conversations in person or online, often missing sarcasm, jokes, and social cues
Gets overwhelmed when given a lot of information at one time
Often can’t finish tests in the set time, like tests that involve multi-step math problems
Needs more time than seems necessary to answer questions and make decisions
Speaks slowly and often struggles to find the right word, saying things like “that thingie” instead
Struggles to finish projects on time
Slow processing speed in high school
Struggles to keep up with class lectures and write down notes
Doesn’t join in class discussions
Misses nuances in conversations and can’t keep up when friends switch topics
Struggles in classes that require quick understanding of visuals, like geography and biology
Tells stories very slowly, to the point of losing track of the story while telling it
Seems to have poor time management skills and is often late on assignments
Struggles with long-term assignments, often losing track of important details
Can’t keep up with social media interactions
When kids move at a slower pace in these areas, it’s easy to think they’re lazy or unmotivated. But when it comes to slow processing speed, that’s not the case. Kids who process things slowly often want to move faster. And struggling to keep up can cause a lot of anxiety.
Lots of kids who learn and think differently have challenges like these. And they can improve with support.