Processing Speed (RAN)
Some children, no matter how hard they try, cannot answer times tables quickly. Dyslexia often causes a delay in the brain's processing speed. Those tests which reward speed, will always discriminate against children with this difficulty, consigning them to the bottom.
One of the most widely used tests used to identify dyslexia is Rapid Automatic Naming, known as RAN. Dyslexics with lower RAN, process language more slowly. A RAN test presents the child with a sheet of letters, colours, objects or numbers and they are asked to name each item as quickly as they can within a timed period. Completing this activity more slowly than other children has been found to be an accurate predictor of difficulty with reading. RAN should not be used as method of instruction; it is an identification tool.
What are the difficulties?
Low RAN will cause difficulty with timed tasks.
1. Reading fluency
There is likely to be difficulty with quick decoding and reading speed.
2. Written work
Less written work can be produced in the same time as other children. Rapid spelling will also be very difficult.
3. Recalling math facts
Retrieving multiplication facts, especially in timed math tests, will be slower than other children.
Completing calculations will take longer.
4. Word finding
Those with a processing difficulty often can’t think of the right word for what they want to say.
How to help
Assign half as much written work. Keep in mind that it will take twice as long to get the same amount of work done.
For timed tests, like spellings or times tables, set personal targets. See how many the student can produce in the time, then challenge them to beat their own target.
Extra time may be given in examinations as an accommodation.
Children identified as having low RAN are always at a disadvantage when given tasks to complete within a time limit. A child with a leg brace would not be expected to run as quickly as a child who could run without difficulty. Children with this neurological processing difficulty should not be given the same speed goals nor should they be penalized for failing to produce as much work.
Not all dyslexics have slow RAN. Research by Maryanne Wolf (1) determined that it affects almost half the people with dyslexia. Some students may have a phonological difficulty only. But when children have both a phonological difficulty and low processing speed, this double deficit will cause severe dyslexia.