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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 in class, difficulty keeping up with and contributing to class discussions.
    • Always seeming to be 'one step behind'.

    What strategies might help?

    • Allow extra time to finish tasks, including class work, homework 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.  Don't make the child aware they are failing to complete the work their peers are doing.
    • Provide written or photocopied notes instead of asking the child to copy them down.
    • Allow plenty of time for processing instructions and questions, and for the child to give a response.

    Who do I see and how is it diagnosed?

    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 with in a reasonable amount of time.
    • A neuropsychologist can help devise strategies a child experiencing problems in this area.

    For more information

    Developed by the RCH Paediatric Rehabilitation Service.  First published Feb 2007. Updated November 2010.

This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.