Brian, the young man I was asked to observe due to his illegible handwriting skills, was sitting in his 7th-grade math class. I pulled Tanisha out of the same class for her 2-minute core exercise routine to stimulate her thinking and mathematical problem-solving. You may recall that Tanisha has a crush on Brian. I suggested reevaluating him last week due to his possible regression of skills.

Last week, I mentioned the importance of Processing Speed on Brian’s school performance. What is Processing Speed? Why is it essential to Brian’s school success?

Processing Speed contains three components: coding, symbol searching, and cancellation. According to Steven Butnik (2019), Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, coding is transcribing symbols using codes. For example, a cryptogram is a coded message. Therefore, an immediate difference in abstract symbols is included under coding.

Symbol search is looking for matching objects in a search. Any assessment used to match the stimulus among the results is set up. For example, the Motor-Free Visual Perceptual Test (MVPT) shows the participant an object, and the client picks their choice from a group of four stimuli.

Cancellation is designing and categorizing the last amount of data into smaller chunks like arrays. Tasks like reading, writing, and math fluency are examples of cancellation.

Standard Scores for average students range from 86-115. You may recall that Brian has a Processing Speed of 83. Butnik states that Processing Speed alone does not qualify a student for a disability. As an OT, I see the struggle for these kids who have scored in the 80-87 range. With Brian having a score of 83, he does demonstrate a disability with Processing Speed. Unfortunately, it is not enough to lower his overall IQ score to the disability range. Because this score alone does not qualify him, he cannot receive an IEP.

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Butnik, S. (2019, May 13). Understanding, diagnosing, and coping with slow processing speed. Winfied Il: Glen Ellyn Media. Retrieved from