The Social and Emotional Impact of Slow Processing Speed

Normally we are all so worried about the impact of slow processing speed on academic performance and home life that we sometimes forget that it impacts our children on a social level too.

These children often have difficulty maintaining peer relationships and often suffer from low self-esteem.

What I remember from my school days were that as soon as there was a fast pace conversation going on, I would really struggle to keep up and understand what was happening. I can remember so clearly how this affected me in class when we had to work in a group, and everyone was talking all at once and I could just not keep all my ducks in a row. It really made me anxious.

I often see this with the children we work with as well. Those are the one’s that really struggle and cannot even look you in the eye because of low self-esteem.

These children may be less apt to be involved in extracurricular activities or team sports, so they have fewer opportunities to connect with their peers and can be unsure of themselves in social relationships. Some of these children can even be a little slow to pick up on social cues and, as a result, reluctant to join in because they are unsure of what is happening with their peers.

As with children who have been diagnosed with Learning Disabilities or ADHD, they may be hesitant to engage because they feel as if they are different or inadequate. What we have seen is children taking too long to gather up their supplies between classes or needing extra time to complete their homework allow for less time to walk school hallways with their peers or spend time with them after school.

Over the years we had many such students in our centers that are exceptionally bright, but just cannot keep up.

Low self-esteem in children with slow processing speed often results when they compare themselves to peers who process information more efficiently, which can lead to feelings of depression. Sometimes these children often interpret their slow processing speed as a global deficit in which they see themselves as universally inadequate – which is why the identification of slow processing speed is imperative.

Helping your child to understand slow processing speed as a specific weakness and to recognize other areas of strength is particularly important.

The bottleneck of slow processing speed can readily lead to frustration and anxiety. Many children with slow processing speed may avoid others because of how they perceive themselves. They may experience stress-related physical complaints because of their inability to keep up with the expectations of parents and teachers.

In addition, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can also cause slow processing speed. Children who experience slow processing speed due to these issues would not have displayed the signs of slow processing speed when they were younger. Slow processing speed might manifest itself in anxious children with perfectionist tendencies, who go slowly due to the fact that they need to be 100% correct.

Strategies that may improve social and emotional functioning.

Enthusiastically support friendships

  • Have a pizza night to help children engage in activities with friends.
  • Become the fun parent.
  • Buy popular video games for your children to play with their peers.
  • Be a willing chauffeur to take your children to the movies or another event.

Embrace technology

  • Make communications such as texting, Instagram, and Snap chat readily available to encourage children with slow processing speed to be in touch with their peers at their own pace.
  • Encourage children to communicate with peers they will see in school the following day.

Discuss listening and conversational skills

  • Teach children to ask others to slow down when they are talking to them.
  • Help them to make eye contact and to be engaged, even if simply by nodding their head.

Let them play sports

  • Non-competitive or individual sports may be most appropriate.
  • Choose sports where repeated practice at home can lead to improvement.
  • Practice not only makes perfect, but it can also make children move faster.


  • Try to get away from the stress of school and other areas of difficulty.
  • Engage in fun activities and include a child’s friend in the fun.

Exercise, and then exercise some more

  • This can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • The data are compelling about how vigorous exercise changes brain chemistry to reduce stress.


  • Encourage children to learn relaxation techniques.
  • Simple breathing techniques or doing yoga or meditation can be very helpful for social and emotional difficulties.

Karin Visser
Biolink Attention Training Head Office