Finding the right intervention to help your child increase his processing speed and writing skills is worth the effort. There are multiple issues to consider, including visual processing, fine motor skills, and language organization skills. When I think of the students that have high verbal skills and slow processing speed I often use the image of a funnel. The funnel is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Like sand flowing through a funnel, your child’s thoughts flow freely at the top of funnel, but need to consolidate and get in a linear form to get out the bottom of the funnel. Strong verbal skills provide a tremendous vocabulary that enriches the ability to communicate ideas. However, the struggle for the hand to form the letters on paper causes many students to write down only the basics of their idea, or to try to write the whole idea and never finish due to fatigue.

When children with high verbal skills and slow processing speed are required to take their ideas and push them through this funnel it becomes a laborious process. The funnel represents the process of taking the mental images and ideas and translating them into words on the page. It is the translation from the language center to the motor center that creates the difficulty. If you could look at the different parts of their brain, you would find that these children would most likely have highly developed language centers along with poorly developed motors sectors. Many teachers do not understand how difficult this is for a child.

An IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) with a 504 is a good idea to consider. When the WISC-IV Verbal Comprehension Index score is more than 15 points higher than the Processing Speed Index score there should be no problem getting a 504, which allows extra time on tests. The difference between the Index scores indicates that the child is able to communicate ideas verbally, but that his visual-motor processing skills are slow. Therefore, this child needs extra time on visual-motor tasks to allow him to get his ideas down on paper. I would also ask for modifications on homework and in-class writing assignments, so that the student only has to do enough to show he has grasped the concepts. Allowing the student to dictate extra practice materials is another option.

 Finding the best professional help to build processing speed and writing skills is trickier. The types of professional services you can use are:

Occupational therapy to work on building the fine motor skills for writing.

    • The amount of effort it takes students to write makes the whole writing process laborious. The frustrating part for the students is that they have the ideas but it’s too much work to communicate them.
    •  I recommend the Retrain the Brain program along with Handwriting Without Tears.
    • An occupational therapist has additional tools that can be used to build the hand muscles needed for fluent writing.

Vision Therapy, if visual tracking is an issue.

Educational specialists, tutors or a speech and language therapist can help with organizing language and writing skills. The writing skills that a student with this profile needs to learn,  includes pre-writing skills to help him organize his ideas before he writes.

      •  In other words, we want to take the grand ideas that the student has and get them onto paper.
      • This process alone will alleviate a lot of stress on the student.
    •  Once the ideas are on paper, they can be numbered in the order the student wants to present them in his final paper.
    • You can use the format from my 5 paragraph essay worksheets and modify them for writing one paragraph. Once one paragraph has been mastered, you can start on two paragraphs. The goal is to get the ideas out so that the student can look at and work with his thoughts without becoming overwhelmed.

It is important to remember that when you are building new pathways in the brain, daily practice is necessary. This means to really build the fine motor skills and/or eye muscles you need to do the exercises daily. It will only take 5 to10 minutes of daily exercises for most students to develop increased productivity within six months.

I also think educating teachers is important so they can understand what your child is experiencing. Share any articles you like that explain the issue your child is having, along with the testing results, so the teacher realizes this is not an issue of lack of effort, but a real learning challenge. Your communication with the teacher will also allow her to become part of your team. Letting teachers know that you understand that your child is struggling and that you are actively working to get help for him, will allow the teacher to know she has your support and that you don’t expect her to do all the work alone. Building a successful educational team that works and communicates together is the best intervention.

45 Responses to Finding the Right Intervention to Increase Processing Speed

  1. jmeyer22 says:

    I have a daughter that was born at 23 weeks and had an IVH and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She just had her new IEP meeting (she is 12 and in 5th grade going into 6th grade). She was classified from CD (cognitive disability ) to OHI. So since she had perceptual reasoning scores higher than the rest they put her into the category. She has the delay still . Her processing speed puts her about 3 grade levels behind the other kids in math, reading comprehension and science/social studies. Everything is really modified for her. It took her 6 hours to complete her OAA’s in reading. I need a plan at home to get her processing speed up to where it should be (if possible) and to have a teaching plan to modify for her.

    • I do suggest OT to help build her processing speed. You have read my post on processing speed so you know the main interventions I suggest. However, in her case there is the cerebral palsy that may be complicating her progress. I do have few students with this diagnose and they too have significant processing speed issues. Learning to be a touch typist, using speech to text software like Dragon Speech, having access to class notes, having extra time on tests and reduced work can all help. There are more technology tools coming out all the time that will help her. Continue to develop her fine motor skills, but also build her skills with the tools that can assist her. The school should be able to work with you to create modifications that address her processing speed deficit and allow her to demonstrate her cognitive protential.

  2. Rachel says:

    Hi, I think some of the article appears missing ? It talks of Occupational Therapy for fine motor skills, Vision therapy for visual issues and then there are no further headings althoughorganisers are touched on – should there not be headings and discussions for Language and Organisational issues. Thank you.

    Once the Educational Psy has assessed low processing speed, who do you get help from to ascertain the cause of the low processing speed ?

    Thanks for your fantastic site and help.

    • You question is a good one:

      There are so many individual aspects to consider. One test alone cannot be used to make diagnoses. I suggest that you discuss this your evaluator. The person who did the testing should be able to look at the test results and break apart some of these issues to give more information.

      For a head start, here are some things to look for in the report:

      • Is there a difference between the Coding and Symbol Search scores? If Coding is low and Symbol Search is high, then most likely fine-motor skills are the problem. If both are low then you need to keep looking. If Symbol Search is low and Coding is high then the issue is with visual discrimination.
      • How is the child’s handwriting? If it is hard to form letters, stay anchored on the line, or the writing is very messy and takes a long time, then fine motor skills can be the problem.
      • If reading fluency is low, then discuss with the evaluator if any tracking tests were done. The WJ Visual Matching is an easy one to do, or see an eye doctor for an evaluation that includes eye tracking.
      • The Beery Visual-Motor Integration (VMI) breaks the visual skills from the motor skills to see if they are different.
      • If visual processing and fine motor skills are OK, then you can consider if slow cognitive processing is the issue. Does this child need more time to think on all tasks? Was it noted in the testing that the child took a long time to complete tasks, even when the task was not visual or motor?

      I have revised the post. There was no link for educational therapy, tutoring and speech and language, which is where the language organization skills can be worked on, so it wasn’t highlighted to look like a heading.

      I hope this helps!

  3. Selena says:

    My son had the WPPSI-III and had:
    Verbal IQ (Superior) PR = 93
    Performance IQ (Average) PR = 73
    Full Scale IQ (High Average) PR = 84
    Processing Speed (Average) PR= 37
    I was told he would need to take longer at school work and to complete tasks.
    I am concerned about the low Processing speed, but they gave me no insights on how to help.
    Could you give me some insight into this? He is 7.

    • Here are a few suggestions from my Frustration Profile article. You can read the whole thing at

      Processing Speed

      Allow longer response time to:
      respond orally to questions in class
      complete seatwork assignments in class
      make decisions when offered a choice of activities
      Allow extra time for tests, usually time and a half.
      Shorten assignments so they can be accomplished within the time allotted.
      Provide copies of notes

      Writing Skills

      Teach brainstorming, clustering and mind mapping skills.
      Teach editing skills.
      Allow the use of a computer.

      Fine-Motor skills

      Use Retrain the Brain to build fine motor skills.
      Use Handwriting without Tears to enhance letter formation.

  4. danielle says:

    my son is 15yrs old. he was retested this year and he scored a 78 in processing speed I found the information here helpful but my son also has aspergers syndrome and i am having difficulties in finding information on how to help him. Autism creates its own set of difficulties and some of the things you would use to help an average child without Autism does not work for him. I am seriously struggling with the school. If there is any information you could give me, it would be greatly appreciated. thank you

    • I don’t have any details about your son, so please take what fits here and let the rest go. All students are individual learners and while we can group “types” of learners, I have learned that generalizations can be both helpful and wrong. I am assuming that the processing speed score you refer to was from the WISC, which means it was a visual-motor timed task that did not require any deep concept processing. The Processing Speed Index on the WISC can correlate to how quickly students write and how well they can look at something and write it down (copying from the board, standardized tests). Your son is 15 years old, so I would focus on building typing skills and getting him extra time on tests, if his Processing Speed is significantly below his other scores. Tools that help him organize his thoughts (graphic organizers or Inspiration) will help him be concise when he writes which decrease the amount of writing he needs to do. I hope this helps.

      • Una says:

        I am from South Africa.I have a twelve year old son that has slow processing and therefore writes slowing too.Whatever he does he does very well and is academically very strong but could not keep up in a mainstream school. He was on Ritalin for a year and a half then he started getting epileptic fits. We took him off this and had him home schooled as the schools wanted him on some concentration medication. His concentration is bad and he is tired as he does work at school and home .He is going to another school next year that does have abridging class.I have been to a see a medical doctor that wants to put him back on Ritalin. What should I do as really do not want these drugs as could precipitate another fit. He is finally off all medication and has not had a fit for 1 year. The other school will use computers etc. is there any other alternative for concentration.I have tried all omegas .

      • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

        I am not a medical doctor so I can’t speak to the medications. Non-medical intervention for attention is based on behavioral modification which requires the student metacognition skills.

        Metacognition is thinking about thinking, knowing “what we know” and “what we don’t know.” This means students take time to think about what needs to be done and how to do it. These students understand how the mind works and use this knowledge to help them. They take control over their learning process.

        Read my article on how Building Metacognition skills can help build Self-Regulation skills by helping the student focus well. Building Self-Regulation skills can then help build Executive Functioning skills, which will allow the student to plan and organize better.

  5. Anne Quilter Goldstein says:

    Hello. Thank you very much for this site. I live in California, and have two sons (16 and 11) with Verbal Comp Index scores much more than 15 pts. (28 and 35 difference rrespectively). Since they are not failing, the school will not offer them 504 accomodations. If needed they’ll give extra time on tests, and the younger sons teachers will reduce i.e. math problems. Both of their verbal scores are in the high 90’s. The schools say their scores need to fall 2 SD’s below the mean before they are eligilble fpr any services.
    I am wondering if you know of anything written in the Ed Code regarding discrepancies between various indexes, vs a child needing to be in the lowest 2% to qualify.
    Thank you,

    • I am not familiar with the educational codes. I find it very unfortunate that more schools and The College Board are not allowing students with slow processing speed extra time. It used to be that having a 15 point difference between the verbal comprehension and the processing speed indexes was enough for schools and the College Board to grant time accommodations to students. However, lately I have seen students who have been denied extra time even though they had a large discrepancy on their scores. The new position seems to be that students must have a functional disability to be granted extra time on tests. What this means is that they have high potential, as your boys do, and also that they are scores on academic assessments such as the WJ demonstrate difficulty on time within a subject area. This would mean their reading fluency, writing fluency, math fluency scores would be weak. It also seems like students need a stronger background history of difficulty to be allowed additional time on tests. In other words, their processing speed issues would have caused them to struggle in elementary school as well as middle school and high school.

  6. Barb says:

    My son will be 12 this year. He has a problem with reading comprehension, because of this he scores very low on I-Step test. I have been working with him along with his teacher. I just recently noticed that he has been paying attention to details in a short stories. His Star Reading scores will be high one day and low the next and it repeats the pattern. Why does this happen? What can I go to help him more?

    • The inconsistent pattern you describe can be due to a number of factors. I would suggest you have an evaluation done to investigate his auditory processing, working memory and attention skills. Talk to the examiner to see if there are other areas they recommend assessing. Inconsistent performance indicates that when a student can fully focus he can achieve good results, but when there are other aspects pulling his attention away his performance drops. When a child is compensating for an underlying learning difficulty it can be hard for him to demonstrate his skills consistently as the working memory skills are divided between compensating for the area of deficit and learning the new material. I hope this helps.

  7. Lori Lipsky says:

    I wonder if you can help me figure out how to help my son. He is 10 and scored 99.6% in overall cognitive ability (full scale IQ score of 140 on Woodcock Johnson III) but just an average processing speed. Working memory was above average but not near his other scores. He has no problems with reading– in fact, he is an advanced reader. His handwriting is neat and he does not appear to have any trouble writing, although his writing speed cannot match his speed of thought. He does have ADHD. His therapist feels that he is extraordinarily frustrated because of the slow processing speed. At his age, what else can we do to help him? I don’t feel he needs OT or speech, and we started him on medication, which seems to be helping a bit. Is there anything else I can do or any other testing we should investigate?

    • I suggest that you get him on Dragon Dictate, a speech to text software and get him to be touch typist. If he can dictate and/or type as fast as he thinks he will be able to get his ideas out and be less frustrated.

  8. Hanna says:

    We are headed to school tomorrow to meet and request a 504 for a processing speed issue. Our daughter is very bright with a WISC Full Scale IQ of 132. She has a GPR of 4.6 out of 5. However she has always had a processing speed issues and this year it is causing problems with her math grade. On her original WISC when she was 9 her Verbal Comp was 130 and her Processing Speed 112 which has a greater difference then the 15 points you reference. Last year, at 15, when she was up all hours doing homework, reading is painfully slow, we had her retested and the doctor only redid her processing speed which dropped to 103. She did not want to be “different” and insisted on not asking for more time last year, but has now realized that she cannot get by in math without it. The school asked for all her testing reports which we will bring and a “diagnosis” which we do not have. The psychologist who did the testing said it was not possible for her to give one. I am not sure how to address this in the meeting tomorrow. I also feel that the school may say she is doing so well in other areas she shouldn’t worry about this one class, but we believe that without extra time she is unable to show what she know. Any thoughts you can share would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hanna says:

      Issue resolved, diagnosis not needed, school kindly offered a “local accommodation” for math without the need for a 504..our school system worked towards the best interest of the student which is a good thing.

  9. Jessica Kruse says:

    My son is 8 years of age and tests very high on IQ but far below normal in processing. We have also been told he is in the aspergers portion of the autism spectrum. The doctor is insisting that we medicate. Is this necessary? He is performing as expected academically in 2nd grade. The doctor insists he should be in the gifted program and that denying him medication for improving his processing is not fair to the child. My ex husband (who is a lawyer) is threatening to medicate him with out my consent and take me to court if I don’t agree. I am terrified. My child is bright healthy and happy. Why must i expose him to drugs? Am I being negligent in refraining from medication? Please help!

    • The issue of whether to medicate or not medicate a child is very tricky. It is not something that I can comment on in this type of forum. I suggest that you speak to the school and create a learning team which consists of your son’s teacher, the learning specialist at the school, a psychologist, and the doctor who did his assessment, as well as you and your husband. You can research more about processing speed, Aspergers, and medication to help you make your decision.

  10. Cathy says:

    Hello, Dr. Mullin — My 15-year-old NLD daughter shows a huge disparity between her verbal abilities and her processing speed. She is in the 99th percentile for reading comprehension on the Nelson-Denny Reading Test with double time but only in the 29th percentile with standard time. She has high average and even superior scores on several language-based tests, but shockingly low scores on visual ones; for example, she scores in less than the 10th percentile on the Wechsler (WISC-IV) for Coding, Block Design, Processing Speed, Symbol Search, Letter-Number Sequence, and Matrix Reasoning. She is in three honors classes in high school which have a large reading component and she spends every free moment after school on homework, much of it on reading assignments. Can you recommend any reading strategies that might help compensate for her processing speed deficits? Is it possible that a program like Evelyn Wood’s Reading Dynamics might help? Thank you.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      The first thing I think of is books on tape, which now really means downloadable. It sounds like she has both visual tracking and visual spatial weaknesses. This would suggest that vision therapy may be helpful to increase her reading speed. I don’t think Evelyn Wood’s programs will the right intervention. A program like Eye-Q can be helpful if vision therapy is not an option.

      Reading Strategies such as reading the questions first so that she knows what she is looking for can be helpful as well as the SQ3R reading method.

      • Cathy says:

        Thank you very much for these suggestions, Dr. Mullin. I also just came across the Learning RX Brain Training program ( which seems to retrain the brain to strengthen cognitive weaknesses. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

      • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

        Hi Cathy,

        The Learning Rx company has produced good products. The way they have their website set up it is hard to determine what activities they include in their Brain Training program. I know that this company used to have a program called PACE, which stood for Processing And Cognitive Enhancement. I can only assume that their new brain training program is an extension of the PACE program activities. The PACE program did a wonderful job of building working memory, visual memory, spatial orientation, and auditory processing.

        I am not sure whether the Learning RX program will increase processing speed. There were no fine motor skill building activities in the original program, I do not know whether they have had anything in the new program. Without seeing the actual activities in the program I cannot determine what cognitive skills are being developed in their new program.

  11. Dash says:

    Thank you so much for this information!

  12. Sara says:

    I have just found your blog and it is proving very helpful. I have a son who is 13, he sat the WISC4 two and a half years ago. In both vocab and comp he scored 16. In digit span he scored 6 and in letter-number sequencing he scored 7. In coding he scored 5 and symbol search he scored 9.

    I have been told by a clinical psychologist recently that test done in the last month put him on the first percentile for working memory and processing. As you can imagine we are living with a lot of frustration. I am struggling to work out what are realistic expectations for him. I wondered if you had any advice


    Sara(In the UK)

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      Is attention an issue at all? There is a strong correlation between attentional issues and weak working memory skills. I would investigate the CogMed Working Memory program and the Re-Train the Brain program to build his working memory and fine motor skills.

  13. Tracy says:

    Hello. I’m trying to help my 10 year old son live to his potential! Glad I found you. Because of suspicion of ADHD, I had the appropriate series of tests run last year. The results showed moderate ADHD, Verbal Comp. score Superior at 92nd percentile, Perceptual Reasoning Superior at 94th percentile, Working Memory High Average at 75th percentile and Processing Speed at low average at the 27th percentile. He scored significantly lower in working memory and processing speed than in verbal comp and percetual reasoning. In fact processing speed is two standard deviation differences from his verbal comp. and perceptual reasoning scores. Additionally, he was diagnosed as having some dsygraphia and his visual motor skills score was in the low range w mild deficits at the 3rd percentile. I am not able to provide tutoring solutions at this time and am therefore doing my own investigative work to help work through frustration by building up his weaknesses. He scored in the 97th percentile on End of grade testing for math and 79th for language. On a recent placement test, he scored in the 95th for math and 65th for reading comprehension. I finally figured out that to help him improve his reading comprehension, I have to help him improve his processing and working memory. I remembered a game we had on the DS called Brain Age and then found out that it is available for the ipad and just downloaded it. Apparently, these games are perfect for this goal. What do you think? and do you have any other suggestions on how I can help my son without the use of a tutor? Or spending any money? I think as school becomes more challenging, he is going to run into some brick walls unless we address this. Thank you. Tracy

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      You can read the suggestions in my article on the Frustration Profile. Brain training games are great, but you need to create a chart and make sure that he is working at his potential to ensure that the working memory is being tapped. I also recommend my Flexible Thinking Program for many gifted students to help them learn to slow down and work through problems and learn to create strategies to deal with frustration.

  14. Lowe9 says:

    Thank you for this site! We have been trying to figure out our son’s WISC-IV scores and what they tell us about him. Our son is 7, has higher functioning ASD and has been making all As and Bs in a regular classroom (with an aide) We had him tested to see if he was eligibile for gifted. His VCI was 132, PRI 96, WMI 91 but his PSI was 78. We know they did not give him sensory breaks during the testing and I am afraid that effected his score. Because this result gives him a full scale of 102, he does not qualify for gifted. What does such a huge drop between VCI and PSI mean? We are worried that this does not adequately reflect his intelligence and if his PSI was so weak that it would be affecting his school work more? Do you have any suggestions on how we could address this with the school?

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      You can read the post I wrote about a 16 year old with a similar profile : How does a low processing speed score affect my child? You may also learn more form my post on executive functioning skills and processing speed.

      When there is a significant difference between Index scores the full scale IQ number is not a true measure of a child’s ability. I would investigate the low processing speed further. Does he have dysgraphia, a visual processing deficit, or is he a slow thinker? Something is going on that is affecting his ability, and it is worth finding out now how to help him. I would go back to the school and ask some more questions. Your son has verbal strengths and you want to ensure that he continues to develop to his potential.

  15. Margie Ello says:

    Hi Dr. Mullin,
    Echoing what other’s said, thank you for taking the time to respond to all the questions. Here is mine. My 10 yr old son had issues with reading comprehension. He went through a couple of reputable reading programs and post test showed improvement of several grade levels. After his last post test, it was recommended that he takes a cognitive test because he said that my son is bright but worked at a slow pace. He had a WISC-IV test last week. While I don’t have the report yet, I was told the following: VCI 79th percentile, PRI 94th percentile, WMI 55th percentile and PSI is 9th percentile. So the initial assessment of a slow processing speed was correct. Aside from accommodations in school, what can be done to improve his speed? He has a tough time focusing and often fidgets. He’s had ADHD evaluations twice and both concluded negative. Also, he had ITBS and COGat testing in school and his “predicted national percentile rank” based on his COGat was above average but his actual “national percentile rank” was low average. Any recommendations. Thank you.

  16. Kate says:


    First, I must say, this website is wonderful. I have found it while trying to decipher my children’s WISC-IV scores from their recent tests.

    A bit of background, my 10yo son has ADD, primary inattentive type. This past year, after a few frustrating and tearful years of school, we decided to homeschool to better suit his learning needs, as we are against medication at this point. I also have a bright and eager to learn 7yo. For my own piece of mind, I had my child’s psychologist administer the WISC, primarily to find gaps and strengths in order to tailor our curriculum for this coming year. I was shocked and pleased at the results of the test scores. We briefly discussed the results, and I wasn’t all to concerned at the time, but then started to do further research while choosing materials this week..which led to my questioning. The only real thing that concerns me is the PSI score, as it is significantly less than the others for both my children.


    What is interesting to me is that both their high and low scores are exactly the same. This leads me to believe that myself, as their primary teacher, is educating them in a way to impact these scores. Is the processing speed score related to my son’s ADD. My daughter shows no signs of inattentiveness. I am looking for a bit of guidance regarding a plan to help my children raise these scores, or some suggested activities to strengthen their processing speed.

    Thanks for your time and guidance!

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      I do not think you need to worry about your children. They have strong scores across the board. Just to be on the safe side I would make sure that they are comfortable with their writing skills and are not frustrated with the motor aspect of writing. Their processing speed score is in the average range for their ages and that is fine.

  17. Becky Synan says:

    Our son is almost 20, about to be a sophmore in college. His “only” deficit is processing speed, and he has Aspergers. (We just had him retested last spring break.) For this next academic year, he has been granted a few accommodations at school: lower credit requirement (15 to 12, for his scholarship) and 50% more time for exams. I’m wondering if there is anything more we can do.

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      A note taker would be helpful to ensure that he has all the information given in class. I am going assume that he is a fast typist and that he can use his computer in the class for note taking and for exams. Those are the most important additional accommodations for processing speed deficits. Regarding the Aspergers it is hard to comment as the strengths and weaknesses of this profile vary greatly. One helpful thing would be make sure to get an outline of the class requirements and what is going to be expected for each class and make sure to review it so that your son understands what is expected of him. Many Aspergers students have difficulty with novel assignments and can have trouble sticking to the topic to fulfill the assignment, or they can create more work than is needed by providing more information than was required. While this can make for an excellent grade it can “burn out” the student as he is doing extra work and then can become overwhelmed with the workload of school.

  18. Corina says:


    We have a 9 year old daughter who we really need help with. She was tested at 7 years 11 months and these are her results WISC-1V
    Verbal Comprehension – Similarities 50%, Vocabulary 37%, Comprehension 78%
    Perceptual Reasoning – Block design 50%, Picture Concepts 63% Matrix reasoning 50%
    Working Memory – Digit span 25%, Letter-Number sequence 25%
    Processing Speed – Coding 2%, Symbol search 9%
    we were told she is dyslexic on top of this plus she was diagnosed with Petite Mal epilepsy at 6 years old which she is medicated for.

    We are looking at the cogmed working memory training for her have an appointment next week but what do we do about her processing speed. This is really making life hard for her, and her school dont really care so the whole learning/school thing is becoming a right nightmare.

    Any ideas

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      Given the low Coding and Symbol Search scores I suggest an evaluation with a vision specialist and an occupational therapist to further evaluate her eye tracking skills and her fine motor skills. You can also read my article on Dsygraphia and dyslexia for more information.

  19. Concerned Father says:

    Hi Melissa, my son is 11 years old and a straight A student. He is also bilingual. However, he has a very difficult time *concisely* expressing himself verbally. He reads and writes very fluently, but just takes forever when talking. I recently read something that referenced cognitive processing speed. He did not talk much until he was 3 years old, he takes a while to finish homework, took longer than his siblings to tie his shoes well, and is often distracted. When he was younger we thought he might have a hearing problem (he does not) because he would not readily answer us when he was doing something. His school has tested him and monitors him, but have not found anything that they believe is cause for concern. However his teachers do say that he definitely takes his time when verbally answering questions. I also notice (and he has mentioned) kids teasing him because of the way he talks. Any advice you can provide in terms of actionable items we can take with him is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

      It may be that your son is a visual learner. You can learn more about that in my article Do visual learners have more difficulty with language organization than verbal learners?.

      • mj says:

        Thank you Dr. Mullin, great article!

        Any suggestions on how to help regarding how we can help him improve his speaking speed? He really takes his time and has to think before getting the words out.

        Again, thanks for your input!

      • Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. says:

        I would suggest you find a speech specialist who understands word finding issues as well as executive functioning issues. It may be that your son has many ideas in his head and has a hard time honing them down to what he wants to say, that would be an executive functioning skill. He may then have a hard time matching the words to his idea- that would be the speech therapy skill.

  20. Thank you so much for this information! Our daughter was adopted from Russia and has ADHD and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. She was evaluated at Children’s Research Triangle in Chicago and the test did show lower scores on processing speed. Last year the school said she only met one criterion for an IEP (low physical development) and so qualified for a 504. The majority of the suggestions in the CRT report were mostly ignored, so I am gathering as much information as I can prior to this year’s meeting so that I can go informed and fight for her. I watched her struggle in math last year as she was unable to complete the timed tests, and homework took over an hour to complete because of the sentences she had to write for her book reports. I’m hoping to reduce handwriting homework and fight for either longer time on math tests or no timed tests. Thanks for this information as it gives me a better understanding of how she learns and what the scores on her evaluations mean! I especially thought the information you gave on the Coding and Symbol search results were fascinating! Because she is very small for her age, her hands are very small and I’ve always known that writing is very tedious for her. Seeing that in the results with a coding score of 6 and a symbol search score of 8 confirmed that for her, part of the issue is her fine motor skills. One thing to note, however, is that we removed gluten from her diet because it was causing a lot of gas. Once we took the gluten away, her hyper behavior all but disappeared, her writing, coloring and cutting skills improved, and her ADHD symptoms improved. The CRT visit was before we discovered the gluten issue. Looking forward to this next 504 meeting, but getting a little nervous. I don’t want to come across as too aggressive.

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