Portrait of a Learner 9-12

Systems Change

Speed of Processing

Factor Connections

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How Speed of Processing connects to...

Speed of Processing, also known as processing speed, is the rate at which we perceive and process information and formulate an appropriate response. Speed of Processing develops rapidly in early childhood and continues to develop throughout adolescence. Notably, adolescents' Speed of Processing may be reduced during puberty due to an increase in neural connections that leads to less efficient cognitive processing. Supporting students as they develop their Speed of Processing skills helps them become quick, efficient, confident, and successful learners.

Main Ideas

Students' Speed of Processing increases throughout development, although research suggests it may develop differently for use across different tasks, for instance language-focused tasks vs. nonlanguage (general processing) tasks. Students' Speed of Processing influences many skills core to learning, including: academic skills such as mathematical competence and reading comprehension; the rate at which students can make decisions, remember new information accurately, and retrieve information from Long-term Memory; how well students can pick up on social cues, follow routines, and have conversations; and supports developing automaticity with these skills. Students who have ADHD and also have low processing speed may actually overestimate their own social skills and need support to increase their Social Awareness.

Additionally, some learners with learning disabilities or ADHD, have slower processing speed reading and writing, or processing numerical information, resulting in slower reading times, difficulties skimming text for relevant words, a delay in response when answering questions, and taking more time to solve math problems. Research shows that slow processing speed has a direct impact on math achievement, due to its impact on Working Memory.

Speed of Processing includes different components which each support our ability to perceive information, interpret the information, and respond:

  • Visual Speed of Processing largely concerns how quickly our eyes perceive information and relay it to our brains. It can affect how quickly students can read words, solve math problems, interpret maps, or follow gestures, among other things.
  • Auditory Speed of Processing largely concerns how quickly students hear information and react to it. It can affect how quickly students follow verbal instructions, as well as core components of reading acquisition, such as phonics and phonemic awareness.
  • Motor Speed of Processing largely concerns manual dexterity and can affect how quickly students can write, build blocks, or draw, among other things.

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