Processing Speed, Rapid Naming, and Reading Problems

Processing Speed, Rapid Naming, and Reading Problems

Processing Speed

Processing Speed is critical to how quickly we learn. It is one measure of cognitive proficiency. Processing speed envelops one’s ability to automatically take in information and process it quickly and fluently with easy, overlearned material or tasks.

Quick Processing Speed

For example, reading a list of words that you are familiar with quickly, fluently, and accurately.

Slow Processing Speed

Some students see a list of words they have read before and they have to really look at them, focus on them, they may even need to sound them out in order to read them.

Studies have shown that children with reading difficulties, dyslexia, or reading deficits typically perform more slowly than children without reading difficulties on tasks that measure speed of processing.

One way to improve your processing speed is to improve your ability of rapid naming.

What Is Rapid Naming and How Does It Relate to Reading Problems?

Rapid Naming is the ability to name phonemes, words, word chunks, or objects in a quick and automatic manner.

Almost three decades of research with the Rapid Automatized Naming Test (RAN) have demonstrated that the majority of children and adults with reading difficulties have pronounced difficulties when asked to name rapidly the most familiar symbols and stimuli in the language: letters, numbers, colors, and similar objects.

This ability of rapid automatically naming is another aspect of phonologic processing. It is the phonologic access, the ability to retrieve easily and rapidly verbal (phonetic) information that is held in one’s long-term memory.

Remember, phonologic processing is one of the beginning steps or levels of reading.

A Direct Connection With Rapid Naming and Reading Performance

This ability to retrieve the stored information rapidly is directly related to the type of process that one goes through when they are reading. A child or adult must be able to access and retrieve the stored phonemes and/or word or word chunks that are stored on their memory at a quick rate in order to make sense of the written word.

Difficulty with rapidly automatically naming a series of objects, numbers, letters, or colors shows that reading difficulties are not just a difficulty with the phonological process (phonemic awareness). When the phonological component was taken out of the test, the speed-of-processing or accessing the information emerged as a stronger predictor of reading performance than phonological awareness tasks were.

What Can We Learn From This?

processing speed, rapid naming, learning

From these studies we can conclude that there are several areas that need to be addressed when working to improve reading skills. Phonological awareness and processing is one subset of the multiple processes involved in reading, but it is not the only process involved. Visual naming of objects, letters, numbers, and colors represents an array of other skills that are involved with successful reading. These other skills include attentional, perceptual, conceptual, memory, lexical, and visual sequential processing.

Snyder and Downey (1995) report from the Denver Reading Study that the accuracy rates of those with reading difficulties and of those with normal achieving readers were not significantly different. The only significant difference noted was the reaction time and production duration; the readers with reading difficulties has significantly longer reaction times and production durations.

What Can We Do?

The first thing you can do as a parent or as a teacher is to use a program of reading practice that incorporates rapid naming practice into it. You will also want to be sure that the program you use also addresses visual tracking, another causes of reading problems. Over the years I have found that upwards of 90% of students with reading problems have visual tracking problems too. When you combine the training you alleviate two problems with one practice. You may want to check out Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, our Awaken the Scholar Within Spelling and Phonics Program, or our Awaken the Scholar Within Reading, Writing, and Study Skills Program because they addresses both rapid naming and visual tracking as well as several other areas of perception at the same time as it improves reading fluency.

Check out all of our Awaken the Scholar Within Programs here.

Be sure to email me your quesions: [email protected]

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Written by: Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET See other articles by Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET
About the Author:

Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET, Go To Pro, is the best-selling author of School Strategies for ADHD Kids, Family Strategies for ADHD KidsFive Minutes To Better Reading Skills, Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills and numerous others books and reading games. Ms. Terry, a former faculty associate at Illinois State University, is a Board Certified Educational Therapist, learning disability specialist, dyslexia and ADHD expert, with decades of experience.  She is internationally recognized as America’s Leading Learning Specialist and the founder of Ms. Terry is an expert in identifying student’s learning disabilities. Using her Awaken the Scholar Within Programs, Ms. Terry coaches teachers and parents to help their children gain a 2 to 4 year learning advantage. She is a frequent media guest and speaker. Visit for free teaching tips and information on LD, Dyslexia, and ADHD.

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