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Diverse Thinking Different Learning

Dec 28, 2021

When it comes to slow processing speed, I knew I wanted an expert to help us better understand what it is and why it occurs. That expert is Dr. Ellen Braaten. Throughout her career and her research for her book Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up, Dr. Braaten has a plethora of information to share on the topic in today’s episode about slow processing speed.

Slow processing speed impacts many of the children I see in my practice and can exist alongside other issues. What makes slow processing speed unique, however, is that it can exist in isolation and shows up in many different forms. It was once considered an executive function in and of itself, and Dr. Braaten explains how processing speed impacts all other executive functioning skills. She also shares many ways that parents and educators can help children with slow processing speed manage their thinking and understand their needs as self-awareness and advocacy are crucial for this struggle that cannot be “fixed.” Processing speed is not indicative of the level of understanding one has and in many ways, slower speed may actually be a good thing. Listen to learn why Dr. Braaten thinks so and learn ways to help support those who are struggling with processing speed.


Show Notes:

[2:09] - Welcome to the podcast, Dr. Braaten!

[3:21] - Processing speed is how long it takes for us to get something done.

[4:20] - Dr. Braaten explains the neuroscience behind slow processing speed.

[5:53] - Simple things to process have larger implications in other areas. Slow processing speed can take different forms.

[7:26] - Timed tests are very challenging for these students not, because they don’t understand the information but because they are slower in accessing it.

[8:32] - For parents and educators, it appears that these students are lazy.

[10:20] - Slow processing speed can exist with other underlying issues, but can also exist in isolation.

[12:50] - For real world problems, slower thinking is probably a good thing, but in our education system speed is important.

[14:01] - The speed in which information is processed is not an indicator of how well or poorly the information is processed.

[15:40] - Initially, processing speed was seen as an executive functioning skill. Dr. Braaten describes the difference.

[18:10] - Assessments are important for using the proper intervention.

[19:34] - There is nothing that can be done to fix processing speed.

[20:33] - There are some things that help manage processing speed, including understanding time.

[22:03] - Speech and language services are helpful to help students organize their thoughts.

[23:01] - In school, students can receive extended time on tests but often don’t know what to do with that additional time.

[25:26] - Processing speed is closely connected with anxiety.

[26:52] - Self-awareness and advocacy are the best treatments for managing slow processing speed.

[29:10] - Research showed that slow processing speed impacts social skills.

[32:01] - In social situations, these students sometimes get themselves into trouble as a result of not understanding cues.

[33:10] - In our society, we think that to be smart you have to be fast, but it’s not true.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Ellen Braaten is the founder and executive director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Kessler Family Endowed Chair in Pediatric Neuropsychological Assessment, and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She is widely recognized as an expert in the field of pediatric neuropsychological assessment, particularly in the areas of learning disabilities and attentional disorders. She has published numerous papers, chapters, and reviews on topics related to ADHD, learning disorders, child psychopathology, processing speed, and intelligence, and written and edited numerous books for parents and professionals, including Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up. Dr. Braaten has a strong interest in educating the public on topics related to child mental health. She maintains an active speaking schedule and contributes regularly to local and national news outlets such as NBC and the New York Times. She received her PhD in Psychology at Colorado State University and completed her psychology internship and post-doctoral fellowship at MGH.

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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.