Processing Speed and Learning

brain plasticity


If you’re the parent of a child who’s struggling in school, you may have heard the term ‘processing speed’ and wondered what it means.  Processing speed refers to how quickly information travels throughout the brain.  A processing speed deficit can affect learning dramatically.  Compare it to riding a train that travels at 30 miles an hour versus one traveling at 60 MPH.  Obviously, you’re going to get to your destination much faster on the 60 MPH train.


What is happening?

When a child has a slow processing speed, it takes their brain longer to sort through the information coming in through the senses. For instance, if your child’s train (processing speed) is traveling at 30 MPH when they look at a page of writing in a book, it takes the train longer to carry the visual image into the brain and make the proper connections to translate the symbols on the page into words.  So they read slower and with more difficulty than a child whose train is traveling at 60 MPH.


What does it impact?

Processing speed affects long and short term memory, reading, writing, speaking, attention and reasoning.  Children with processing speed deficits feel as if they’re always one step behind the rest of the group.  Time pressures can cause them embarrassment and stress because they aren’t able to finish a test or assignment with the rest of the class. Because of the time it takes to process information, they have trouble maintaining attention on tasks like reading, writing and math.  When speaking, they may have difficulty finding the right words to express themselves.

Because a brain processing deficit can have be either sensory or cognitive, it’s important to have your child tested to understand exactly what’s going on. Sensory deficits involve the way the information enters the brain and can be visual, auditory or any of the other senses.  For instance, if someone has an auditory processing disorder, it doesn’t mean they can’t hear.  What it refers to is the way the brain processes information taken in through hearing. 


What can you do to help your child?

The good news is that through my Student Transformation System, we can strengthen the neurological connections and build new pathways in the brain to improve processing speed. In that way, your child can make tremendous progress in their cognitive function and show dramatic improvements in their ability to learn.


A Strategy to Use While Training the Brain

A common strategy used by teachers is to allow more time for answering questions.  Also, provide a copy of the notes in class to the student.  When working with your child who is processing slowly, you need to be patient.  Ask your child information in smaller bits instead of the usual "whole page" of data.  Slow processing is quite common amongst children with Dyslexia, too.  This means you need to accommodate to lessen the stress and avoid a complete shutdown.  While you are brain training with your child, provide a few different ways for your child to respond.  Meaning, offer up images to accompany the written request to lessen the double duty processing required to understand your request and find a correct answer.  Simply pointing to the picture is a lot easier.  This works great for home.  While in school, be sure the teacher is able to accommodate by using a task analysis approach.  You do not need to lessen expectations for your child, rather, have the teacher allow more time for finishing assignments and tests. 


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Colleen Bain is the best-selling author of Overcomers Inc. She writes, trains and consults in advanced brain training for children and their parents, teachers and professionals.  Professionals also look to Colleen for her expert coaching relative to starting and expanding a brain training business.  To find out how Enhanced Learning Skills for Kids can help you – visit How Enhanced Learning Skills for Kids Can Help Your Child!

Find some great tools for parent and teachers to help improve your child/student's ability to process:

  • Use the card game blink   





    • Use this card game directly from the box as "directed."  This will help to improve processing speed.  You can also use it to let your students speak the colors they see in each card as they flip a card.  This will help with rapid name recall.  You can use the deck to let your student name the sapes they see on each card – as quickly as possible.  
  • BrainWare Safari – This program works all cognitive skills in as little as 30 min. a day.  With time on task, your child/student will improve in their ability to process.  
  • Student Transformation System – This is a custom program designed by Colleen Bain, MAED to help your child succeed.  Either you train using the custom program or Colleen will work 1:1 with your child.



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