Processing Speed after Brain Injury

Processing Speed after Brain Injury

Kimberly S. Hutchinson, Ph.D., and Lawrence S. Dilks, Ph.D

This Tip Card will help one understand the function of processing speed, recognize problems, and develop activities that address impaired processing speed. Organic dysfunctions contribute to impairment without the person being aware there is a problem.

Processing speed improvements are achieved by challenging an individual to think, move, and respond quicker through training and experience. Even though it affects the survivor, everyone is encouraged to be involved in the therapy process.

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Full Description

Dr. Dilks and Dr. Hutchinson identify there being more than one type of processing. For example: verbal expressive, verbal receptive, gross motor, and fine motor. etc. All areas (realms) of processing speed depend on interaction with other systems, which don’t always mature at the same rate and contribute to problems with reading and writing.

A thorough medical, psychological and educational evaluation is recommended.

This Tip Card suggests several activities following identification of the specific processing speed issue or problem, including:

Enhancing visual processing speed --

  • work with a colored paper that attracts the individual’s attention
  • keep exercises short
  • take other visual impairments into consideration (i.e.: glasses, contacts, cross-eyed, etc.)

Enhancing writing speed --

  • develop fine motor strength and control with hand exercises
  • ensure working knowledge of basic shapes, basic words and sound abilities
  • work with oversized letters and large writing instruments
  • utilize soft writing material for client comfort (i.e.,: crayons, cushioned pencils).
Pages 8
Year 2017


Kimberly S. Hutchinson, Ph.D.

She is a Clinical Psychologist with Counseling Services in Lake Charles, Louisiana and Physical Rehabilitation Services at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital. She graduated from Barry University, Villanova University, and Fielding Graduate University. Kim taught at Barry University and has a research interest in rehabilitation and is completing a fellowship in Neurocognitive Rehabilitation at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Lawrence S. Dilks, Ph.D.

He is a Clinical Neuropsychologist who has a private practice with Counseling Services in Lake Charles Louisiana and serves as the head of the Department of Neuropsychology with the Physical Rehabilitation Service at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital. He graduated from Truman State University, Kansas State at Pittsburg and The University of Southern Mississippi. Larry served four years as an Army Clinical Psychologist. He taught at Northwestern and McNeese State Universities. In the past 37 years, Larry has focused on helping individuals overcome psychological and cognitive impairments with the primary goal of maintaining as much independence as possible.


  • Introduction
  • Functions of Processing Speed
  • Changes in Processing Speed
  • Concentrate treatment on Impaired Processing Speed
  • Challenging Activities to Improve Processing Speed
  • Establish Purpose of Activities – Improving Processing Speed
  • Suggested Activities to Increase Processing Speed
  • Suggested Activities to Decrease Processing Speed
  • Other Issues that Affect Processing Speed
  • Multiple Processing Speeds
  • The Roles of Training and Experience
  • Summary


To address processing speed problems and issues, the therapist should

  1. assess the current level of processing speed functioning of the identified patient
  2. identify and select a series of cognitive rehabilitation activities and techniques with achievable goals
  3. seek agreement from the client and caregivers  provide instruction to caregivers in selected cognitive rehabilitation techniques
  4. encourage caregivers to continue activities at home.

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