Processing speed is one of the major factor in general cognition and a fundamental part of the cognitive system (Kail & Salthouse, 1994).
Slow cognitive processing is linked to academic achievement and several clinical disorders. Vulnerability to information processing load is related to attentional problems. Inattentive children perform poorly on measures of information processing speed (Weiler, Bernstein, Bellinger, & Waber, 2000). Some authors talk about the possibility that inattentive subtype of ADHD (ADD), could be a different group from general ADHD characterized by poor cognitive interference control and slow processing (Goth-Owens, Martinez-Torteya, Martel, & Nigg, 2010). Likewise, attention and speed weaknesses coexist in children with Autism and ADHD, an contribute significantly to the prediction of academic achievement (Mayes & Calhoun, 2007). Deficits in processing speed are a cognitive risk factor for reading disabilities and ADHD (Shanahan et al., 2006). Children with dyslexia, compared with normal performance children, have persistent problems in naming speed for all stimuli regardless the stimulus requires grapheme-phoneme decoding. In the study of Fawcet (Fawcett & Nicolson1994), performance speed of children with dyslexia at the age of seventeen was close to those with eight years old at control group.
Naming speed can also be modified by medication. Children with ADHD taking methylphenidate selectively, can improve color naming speed but not the speed of naming letters or digits. These findings implicate that naming speed deficits are associated with effortful semantic processing in ADHD, and can be improved but not normalized by methylphenidate (Tannock, Martinussen, & Frijters, 2000).
The relationship between learning disabilities and intelligence is not clear. Children with low IQ scores can be good readers. Poor readers at variety of IQ levels show similar reading, spelling, language and memory deficits (Siegel, 1989).
Another important field is the study of neural correlates of processing speed. Children with developmental dyslexia show deficient phonological processing. When we study the functional networks with rapid auditory processing (RAP), we found functional alteration in left hemisphere frontal regions in prereading children at risk for dyslexia (Raschle, Stering, Meissner, & Gaab, 2013).
Finally, studies show a relation between speed processing, rapid naming and phonological awareness, and all three are related to reading achievement. Poor readers are more slow than good readers across response time measures on the rapid object naming task. Catts et al. 2002, suggest that some poor readers have a general deficit in speed processing, and that speed processing may be conceptualized as an “extraphonological” factor. Naming speed explains variance in reading skills independently of measures of phonological awareness (Bowers & Swanson, 1991).
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Bowers, P. G., & Swanson, L. B. (1991). Naming speed deficits in reading disability: Multiple measures of a singular process. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 51(2), 195-219. doi:10.1016/0022-0965(91)90032-N
Catts, H. W., Gillispie, M., Leonard, L. B., Kail, R. V., & Miller, C. A. (2002). The Role of Speed of Processing, Rapid Naming, and Phonological Awareness in Reading Achievement. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(6), 510-525. doi:10.1177/00222194020350060301
Fawcett, A. J., & Nicolson, R. I. (1994). Naming Speed in Children with Dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27(10), 641-646. doi:10.1177/002221949402701004
Goth-Owens, T. L., Martinez-Torteya, C., Martel, M. M., & Nigg, J. T. (2010). Processing Speed Weakness in Children and Adolescents with Non-Hyperactive but Inattentive ADHD (ADD). Child Neuropsychology, 16(6), 577-591. doi:10.1080/09297049.2010.485126
Kail, R., & Salthouse, T. A. (1994). Processing speed as a mental capacity. Acta Psychologica, 86(2–3), 199-225. doi:10.1016/0001-6918(94)90003-5
Mayes, S. D., & Calhoun, S. L. (2007). Learning, Attention, Writing, and Processing Speed in Typical Children and Children with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Depression, and Oppositional-Defiant Disorder. Child Neuropsychology, 13(6), 469-493. doi:10.1080/09297040601112773
Raschle, N. M., Stering, P. L., Meissner, S. N., & Gaab, N. (2013). Altered Neuronal Response During Rapid Auditory Processing and Its Relation to Phonological Processing in Prereading Children at Familial Risk for Dyslexia. Cerebral Cortex, bht104. doi:10.1093/cercor/bht104
Shanahan, M. A., Pennington, B. F., Yerys, B. E., Scott, A., Boada, R., Willcutt, E. G., … DeFries, J. C. (2006). Processing Speed Deficits in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Reading Disability. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34(5), 584-601. doi:10.1007/s10802-006-9037-8
Siegel, L. S. (1989). IQ Is Irrelevant to the Definition of Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22(8), 469-478. doi:10.1177/002221948902200803
Tannock, R., Martinussen, R., & Frijters, J. (2000). Naming Speed Performance and Stimulant Effects Indicate Effortful, Semantic Processing Deficits in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 28(3), 237-252. doi:10.1023/A:1005192220001
Weiler, M. D., Bernstein, J. H., Bellinger, D. C., & Waber, D. P. (2000). Processing Speed in Children With Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Inattentive Type. Child Neuropsychology, 6(3), 218-234. doi:10.1076/chin.188.8.131.5256