BrainSTARS: Mental Processing Speed

Jeanne E. Dise-Lewis, PhD, Margaret Lohr Calvery, PhD, and Hal C. Lewis, PhD, BrainSTARS
BrainSTARS: Mental Processing Speed

Speed of mental processing cannot be increased with medication or remediation. Environmental demands need to be tailored to match rate of processing.

Use everyday settings and activities

  • If your child appears “blank” or is not doing what you have asked, slow down and repeat the main points without elaboration or additional details.

Change the environment:

  • Shorten directions, focusing on the essential or most important parts.
  • Reduce other distractions, so that your child does not have to screen them and can focus exclusively on your instructions.
  • Wait between instructions for your child to "digest" what you have said.
  • Try not to become exasperated or to pressure your child to "hurry up." If you need something done quickly, don’t ask your child to do it.
  • A waiver of timed requirements for in class assignments as well as classroom and standardized tests may be necessary and appropriate. Extra time should be routinely scheduled to finish work during the school day (for example, a study hall) so that your child does not have to finish work during lunch or recess, or spend an unreasonable amount of time doing homework.
  • Understand your child’s need for sufficient time to process information and respond. He should not be penalized by: missing out on other activities ("You can finish this during recess."), feeling like a burden to others ("We can all go to the park when Jenny is finished."), or experiencing failure and frustration because of incomplete work.
  • Reduce the number of items required on assignments.
  • A child with acquired brain injury will generally function better if he does not have to perform several activities at once. Do not require him to listen and take notes at the same time. Provide an outline of necessary information for him to follow, or assign a good "note taking buddy."
  • Provide written as well as oral directions so that your student can refer back to them.
  • Establish a parent-teacher agreement about the length of time considered reasonable for homework each day, and alter homework assignments so that they can be accomplished within this time frame.

Teach new skills

  • Teach an older student to use a mini-tape recorder to record assignments, appointments, and announcements in class and important summary information from conversations. She should review and transfer this information onto a written calendar daily.

See other BrainSTARS articles.

Posted on BrainLine September 9, 2011.

From BrainSTARS, Brain Injury: Strategies for Teams And Re-education for Students, © 2002 Jeanne Dise-Lewis, PhD. Used with permission. The manual is available in English and Spanish. For more information or to order copies, call 720.777.5470 or A short video on how to use the BrainSTARS manual is available at