Brain injury - Speed of information processing

  • The speed of information processing refers to our ability to manage and absorb, within a reasonable amount of time, information that we are presented with. After a brain injury, information processing skills may be slowed.

    What is speed of information processing?

    Information processing is a part of our cognitive (thinking) functioning that has an impact on most things we do. It refers to our ability to efficiently manage and absorb information we are presented with. The part of information processing that is most often discussed is the speed of our information processing. This refers to our ability to complete cognitive activities in a reasonable amount of time. Information processing capacity is linked with attention and concentration. For example, our attention helps select what information will be processed.

    Examples of difficulties due to slowed information processing

    • slow completion of class work and difficulty completing tasks in allotted time
    • inability to cope with the required amount of homework
    • difficulty copying from the board quickly
    • difficulties following fast moving conversations and activities in class and in the playground
    • slower speech, slower to answer questions, difficulty keeping up with and contributing to class or group discussions
    • always seeming to be 'one step behind'

    What strategies might help?

    • Allow extra time to finish tasks, including class work, homework, tests and exams.
    • If the child has not finished a task and needs to move on, give reassurance and prompt them to begin the next activity.
    • Limit the use of timed tests and tasks.
    • If necessary, change or reduce the amount of work needed rather than giving extra time to finish the same amount of work as classmates.
    • Provide written or photocopied notes instead of asking the child to copy them down in class.
    • Allow extra time for processing instructions and questions, and for the child to give a response.

    When to see a doctor?

    Difficulties with thinking or cognitive skills such as these are formally identified through a neuropsychological assessment. A neuropsychologist can help devise compensatory and management strategies (such as those above) that are suitable for the individual child and their particular cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

    Key points to remember

    • After a brain injury, information processing skills may be slowed.
    • The speed of information processing refers to our ability to manage and absorb information we are presented within a reasonable amount of time.
    • A neuropsychologist can help devise strategies for a child experiencing problems in this area.

    For more information


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Rehabilitation Service based on information from the Brain Injury Service at Westmead Children’s Hospital. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed September 2020.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit


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