Slow processing that is one common feature of dyslexia. It can make learning key skills very challenging and make keeping up with peers in class a real struggle. This can lead children to experience anxiety and frustration and feel less capable than others around them – which is very much not the case.
It is a common misconception that the word ‘slow’, especially when used to describe a cognitive function, is a bad thing and is often considered synonymous with a lower level of intellect. However, this is far from accurate when it comes to processing speed in dyslexics.
Imagine, if you will, that the mind is like an office.
The individual with average or fast processing speed – let’s call them Alex – has a very tidy office. A number of filing cabinets line the walls and all the documents and paperwork within these cabinets are ordered in clear and logical format. When they are asked a question about spiders, they go into their office, straight to the cabinet entitled ‘animals’, open the arachnids drawer and pull out the spiders file, get the appropriate document then leave. A fast and automatic information retrieval process.
However, the mind of someone with slower than average processing speed – let’s call them Jo – may not resemble the tidy office I described above. Instead, there may be paperwork still in the in-tray and on the desk not quite filed away yet.
The documents in the cabinets may not be stored in the same coherent way. For instance, Jo may have seen a big spider whilst on holiday so some arachnid details may be stored in the holidays file; they may have a spider living under their bed so other information on spiders may be stored in the ‘things under my bed’ file. Therefore, when Jo is asked the same question on spiders the information retrieval process isn’t as straightforward and automatic.
So how can this be good?
This is the important bit – when slow processing is advantageous, while Jo is looking for the information to answer the question, they are exposed to so much more past knowledge and experience than ever Alex was and therefore they can make connections between the concepts that they have access to, produce ideas and novel thoughts which will ultimately make their response likely to be far more interesting.
This is why, in the words of Matt Hancock, our Education secretary, “Dyslexia is the biggest single driver of ingenuity, imagination and scientific achievement in human history!”
I am a dyslexia specialist and I conduct diagnostic assessments to help children get access to the right education support. If you want to know more about dyslexia or how I can help your child drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to hearing fro you.