What You Should Know About Cognitive Processing Disorders | Rice Psychology
Rice Psychology Group is looking to hire a Licensed Doctoral Level Child/Adolescent Psychologist.
If you are a psychologist who loves working with children and families and would like to learn more about this position or apply, click here.

What You Should Know About Cognitive Processing Disorders

Cognitive Processing Disorders

Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s piece.

I always had a feeling that Jennifer would be a great student. I mean, she’s always running errands for her teachers and has friends in all of her classes. Yesterday, though, I got a call from her math teacher that has me worried sick. Apparently, Jennifer often has trouble with directions and seems to forget instructions immediately after they’re given. On top of that, she’s always distracted, always needs to be redirected to her work and needs more time than others to complete her assignments. I never thought my little girl would have trouble with school, but her teacher says she could be dealing with a processing disorder. What could that possibly mean?

Teachers, doctors and parents often use “processing disorder” when talking about children. Click To Tweet

Teachers, doctors and parents often use “processing disorder” when talking about children. Although the term is commonly used, it can be difficult to understand due to its different meanings. At Rice Psychology Group, we recognize how important this information can be for every parent, which is why our psychologists have prepared this in-depth look at processing disorders.

Could your child be experiencing a processing disorder? At Rice Psychology Group, we’ll do everything possible to find the answers to all of your questions.

What Does “Processing Disorder” Really Mean?

As information enters our mind, our brain must find the best way to deal with it, or “process” it. Click To Tweet

As information enters our mind, our brain must find the best way to deal with it, or “process” it. This information, whatever it may be, must first be received through our senses. Our brain is then tasked with doing something with this information. If the information, for example, is to be stored away in our long-term memory, our brain will hopefully file it in a way that will make it easier for us to remember it. However, a processing disorder can disrupt this course, making it difficult for the brain to process and/or retain and/or retrieve the information.

A processing disorder is not an official condition that you’ll find in a diagnostic manual. In fact, there is limited consensus across professional disciplines about whether such a thing even exists. However, many health professionals relate back to the umbrella term “processing disorder” by using different names for diagnoses. For instance, some occupational therapists specialize in helping children who have difficulty processing information using the senses, also known as “sensory integration disorder”.

Another example would be the work of an audiologist, who diagnoses the trouble a child experiences when processing information he/she hears as an “auditory processing disorder” or “central auditory processing disorder”. A speech/language pathologist, on the other hand, might diagnose the same issue as a “receptive language disorder”. All the while, a psychologist or psychiatrist might consider the issue ADD or ADHD.

How to Spot a Processing Disorder

A processing disorder is not an official condition that you’ll find in a diagnostic manual. Click To Tweet

There are many ways to identify and understand a processing disorder. For that reason, it’s important to work with a professional who will take a big picture approach to assessment. Below, we’ll break down processing and memory issues into specific areas of cognitive (thinking) abilities. Licensed psychologists generally review these areas during psychoeducational evaluations or assessments. Individuals can exhibit strengths, weaknesses or average functioning in any or all of these areas, which are then analyzed to pinpoint individual needs. These three areas include:


  • Visual-Spatial Processing: The ability to use visual patterns, including the ability to recognize and recall things visually, to perceive, analyze (mentally break down), synthesize (put back together) and think in pictures and images.
  • Auditory Processing: The ability to analyze, synthesize and discriminate (tell the difference between) different sounds, including those heard in distorted conditions such as when there is a lot of background noise (like a typical classroom).
    • Phonological Processing and Phonemic Awareness: Includes the knowledge and skills linked with analyzing and synthesizing speech sounds and are critical for developing readers.
  • Processing Speed: Gauges the ability to perform automatic mental tasks, especially when under pressure. These can include paper and pencil “busy work” type tasks.


  • Short-Term Memory: The capacity to capture and hold information in immediate awareness and use it within a few seconds.
  • Working Memory: The ability to retain information in immediate awareness while performing a mental action on the information. It also includes the ability to pull up important information from memory to use at any given time.
  • Long-Term Retrieval: The ability to store information and effortlessly reclaim it later in the process of thinking. It’s important to not confuse this with the concept of long-term memory, which may be better described as the storing of acquired knowledge.
  • Delayed Recall: Gauges the ability to both recall information and associations that were previously learned.

Attention and Executive Functioning

  • Attention: An intricate concept with various facets in which an individual processes information by focusing on certain stimuli. These facets include focused or selective attention, vigilance, sustained attention, divided attention and attentional capacity and aspects of working memory.
  • Cognitive Efficiency: Signifies the brain’s ability to process information automatically.
  • Cognitive Fluency: Gauges how swiftly and easily a person can complete cognitive tasks.
  • Executive Processes: This includes strategic planning, proactive interference control and our ability to repeatedly shift our mental set.

Here When You Need Us Most

At Rice Psychology Group, we know that your loved ones mean the world to you, which is why we’re fully prepared to help them. Our psychologists gather thorough history and school information (if appropriate) to examine reading, writing, math and language skills. We’ll also look at attention, self-control and memory. We’ll additionally examine how fast a person can complete simple paper and pencil tasks, how they manage visual information and answer oral questions. If you have any questions or require more information about what our team can do for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us in Tampa today.

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

6 Responses to “What You Should Know About Cognitive Processing Disorders”

  1. i’m working with the child who has challenges learning things taught to him and there is inconsistency in learning that is he cannot remember the things taught to him, each day there are new mistakes and there is a feeling that the child is not making sense of what has been taught.
    please help

    • Rice Psychology Group


      Thank you for reading! We truly appreciate it. We are sorry to hear about your struggles and would love to help. Please click here to schedule a free 10 minute consultation at either of our locations.

      -Rice Psychology Group


    My son is 17 and has the following deficits: Immediate verbal memory, delayed verbal memory target and non-target words), slow processing of auditory information, sight spelling, word scramble, orthographic coding, blending sounds. No head trama or injury.He does have Family history of LD. How can I help him? He has an IEP and is taking remedial classes, but recieves no specialized academic instruction.

    • Rice Psychology Group


      Thank you for reaching out! Thank you for reading we really appreciate it. We would love to help! Could you please give us a call at (813) 969-3878 so we can discuss further. You can also reach out to us on our contact form so we can give you a call. We look forward to hearing from you!

      -Rice Psychology Group

Leave a Reply

Website Designed by Imagine It Studios