Processing Efficiency is all about Juggling

Measuring Processing Fluency?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part TWO of the Brain-Based Processing Series

*attribution below

How fast can YOU juggle?

Science is rapidly approaching the level of urgency in its attempt to understand the dynamics of cognition that those of us with processing disorders have lived with 24/7 for some or all of our lives.

Almost everyone in the industrialized world reports being “stressed to the max,” which seems, as many are beginning to point out, to have some connection with productivity effectiveness.

Glory hallelujah!

Since the consequences of chronic stress have come to public awareness, personally affecting almost every individual in industrialized societies, corporate heads and productivity gurus have been searching unsuccessfully for ways to lower stress levels without abandoning their preoccupation with capital and profitability.

  • Only a very small subgroup has connected chronic stress to
    human processing limitations.
  • Only a few of those individual have any idea what might work
    to extend the capacities and work around the limitations
    of the human brain.

So, of course, NOW is a good time to apply for funding for cognition studies.  We’ll hear about more and more of them in the next few years.

Studies Take TIME

In Part One of the Brain-Based Processing Series, we looked at only a few of the many problems that cognitive neuroscience will face in their attempts to quantify processing efficiency.

We discussed the distinction between processing speed and processing fluency, expanding on the problems of measuring either.

Until these problems are satisfactorily handled, it will continue to be difficult to design ways of studying human processing using the scientific method.

*attribution below

Implementing study conclusions
will take MORE time

If history is any predictor of the future, our grandchildren might be alive to see the results of those studies make it into mainstream awareness.  Their grandchildren might be around to see society set itself up in a human-friendly manner consistent with what the studies will have  proven scientifically.

Few of US have the time to wait for studies to be designed and published — or to figure out everything through personal trial and error as we careen from conundrum to crisis to criticism day-by-day, month-by-month, decade-by-decade.

In Praise of Anecdotal

Although scientists and doctors eschew anecdotal report in favor of what they have agreed constitutes scientific proof, the millions of us who need to understand what’s going on in our very own brains in our very own lifetimes tend to go the other way.

Scientifically “proven” or not, we need our legislators and our caretakers to have information, even if answers are not forthcoming in a rubber-stamped fashion that makes everybody else more comfortable.

  • EVEN if we have to educate them ourselves
  • Despite the fact that we usually have to INSIST
    that they allow themselves to BE educated.
Drawing of a man "stuck" in the top half of an hourglass, while the sands filter past him to below.

*see below

Running OUT of time – already out of patience

Those of us who have been attempting to function effectively – with aspirations of thriving despite organic and acquired processing disorders and challenges –  DO NOT NEED to have our experience of living validated scientifically.

We need LIVES that work — and strictly enforced laws that protect equal rights to opportunities for employment, free and appropriate public education — and a watchdog with jaws like a pit bull to keep the insurance industry in line.

We need them NOW — while the rest of the world does whatever they feel they must to scientifically validate the rationale for doing so — NOT after the years it will take for the results of the research to allow them to come to our conclusions, learned sharing our personal experiences, attempting to manage day after day.

As more and more of them become one of us, empathy will no longer be required for understanding – but few of us can afford to wait for the dynamic to shift on its own. 

We’re exhausted having to work twice as hard for half as much — at times simply to accommodate and comply with “vanilla” procedures that don’t work well for anybody, but are a disaster for those of us with processing challenges and disorders “mix-ins.”

We’re demoralized by the tough-love, censure and ridicule, fueled by lack of information and understanding, that most of us encounter multiple times daily — on television, in the articles our “news” outlets choose to publish, in our workplaces, our homes — even from most of our doctors and therapists.

We’re TIRED of knowing more about our condition than MANY of the professionals  happy to accept our hard-earned dollars to dispense woefully out-of-date information. We’re going broke paying for sessions where we attempt to convince them that what we say has merit, despite their interpretation of whatever was agreed upon by the current DSM caucus.  We spend hours of our lives doing their job, printing out studies to support our assertions, incredulous when many don’t even recognize the names of the leading lights in their own fields.

  • Those of us with ADD-flavored cognition are insulted and appalled that the huge majority of these gold-standard studies LEAVE OUT most of our community, even though our diagnostic and treatment options are limited by their published results.
  • We are FURIOUS that there is even a single doctor allowed to maintain a license who is ignorant of a fact we have ALWAYS suspected — that ADD does NOT go away at puberty — common knowledge supported by published scientific research that WE have been aware of for well over twenty years.

We’re ALL getting old waiting for the Blind Men at the Elephant to stop squabbling, take a step back, put their heads together and figure out what they’ve got their hands on through a process of deduction that may or may not fit current definitions of how it must be done.  [click HERE for original article using Blind Men/Elephant  analogy]

Our children and grandchildren are slipping through legislative cracks, limping along underfunctioning when they could – and should – be soaring.  They’re gasping for education that inspires rather than stifles. Talk of suicide is not rare in their young communities.

When they cannot struggle through the multi-stepped – often monthly – financial and administrative hoops set before them and their families, simply to remain in treatment long enough to figure out what they must do to have lives worth living, far too many don’t make it.

MEANWHILE, those entrusted with the public welfare make our lives, young and old, impossibly difficult with their testing and their restrictions and the rest of their policies and procedures, put together with an unconscionable indifference to what we could tell them if they were the slightest bit interested in taking the time to make informed decisions on our behalf.

We’ve been working around the vanilla world for decades

Jumping Over Hurdles – HOPE springs eternal!

For years now, we’ve been finding ways to succeed despite the lack of understanding and assistance extended to most of us.  Through the years and bit-by-bit, we’ve built our own underground railroad of cognitive processing information and support.

Those of us with diagnoses more long-standing have NOT ONLY found ways to jump over society’s hurdles in addition to the neurological challenges we face, we have made room in our hearts, our lives and our schedules to reach out to those “behind” us on the Attentional Spectrum pathway.

Our community has accomplished some amazing things to extend networks of support throughout the world — IN ADDITION TO all the hoops we must jump through to manage our disorders and our lives in the intolerant environment created by the vanilla-brained, tough-love majority.

Collectively, we have:

  • designed and delivered informational seminars, trainings and classes
  • recorded and distributed videos and podcasts
  • written books, eBooks, magazine articles and newsletters
  • developed, hosted and supported online support communities
  • founded and administrated support organizations (as well as groups)
    –in any number of venues and formats
  • organized live and virtual conferences
  • supplied information, support and coaching to prisons, schools (from kindergarten through college), Mom’s groups (including homeschoolers), learning centers, hospitals, scout troops, AA recovery groups, church youth groups, and more

as well as

  • donating countless hours of our professional services as speakers, bloggers, content creators, advocates, legal advisors


We come together eagerly, in coffee houses, at conferences, on web-based bulletin boards, in internet chat rooms (or anywhere else we can find others who seem to be similarly wired) to compare our challenges, exchange our resources and work-arounds, and theorize about what might work, AS IF OUR LIVES DEPENDED UPON IT.  

Because they DO.

It’s PAST time . . .

. . .  to speak our truths, to OWN our reality, to stand up and be counted, to call ignorance by name wherever we find it, to take matters into our own hands and shout down the uninformed opinions of the intractably ignorant who refuse to be educated.

. . . to STOP competing for market share, SEO page-rankings, media attention, field positioning OR ANYTHING ELSE

. . . to start spreading EVERYBODY’s word.

As Benjamin Franklin said years ago,
If we don’t all hang together,
then surely, we shall all hang separately.”

Will YOU join me?

In 1994, because there were SO few coaches at all, and fewer still who knew how to work with clients who were cognitively challenged, I founded The Optimal Functioning Institute™ and developed and delivered the world’s first ADD-specific coaching curriculum, shepherding twelve groups through a two-year plus curriculum, personally making up the difference between tuition fees and running expenses for the first eight years, drawing NO salary the entire time.

In the spirit of community support, I personally funded almost all of the administration and marketing costs of the world’s first sliding-scale coaching clinic — to provide real-world experience to the coaches I was training, along with an opportunity to defray some of their expenses for that training. A small application fee was charged to pay a Clinic Administrator to collect applications and make the referrals.  100% of the ongoing client fees went directly to the coaches themselves — for as long as I could keep the clinic afloat.

In the spirit of community support, I personally paid ALL costs associated with running
The  ADD Hours™ I developed to provide global no-charge monthly support and information to a variety of targeted communities, each on a different week, for the seven years I could afford to do so  — and I am by no means a wealthy woman.  I leveraged the income from my private practice, tightening my own belt repeatedly to continue to do so.

I did all this and more, modeling the distinction of “community vs. competition,” hoping to transform business practices in the coaching world at least.

In March of 2011, despite the fact that I was forced by four years of health and personal challenges to start all over when most people my age are retiring, I began compiling 25 years worth of brain-based information and strategies, making it available for free here on — to offer what I could to those who were struggling and could not afford professional coaching fees.

I have spent no less than a hundred unbillable hours each and every month since – researching, creating, compiling and posting 99.99% of the content you will find on this blog, and attempting to let people know this information is available because I still believe that my efforts toward gathering the tribe are THAT important.

And there is SO much more I’d like to do in that regard.

 I could sure use YOUR help getting the word out 

I also ask that any of you who can afford professional coaching and are looking for a coach (or know of others in that situation) will think about using or recommending MY services — to help me pay my bills while I personally rebuild my infrastructure.

I no longer have the funds to hire professional web designers – and won’t until I can get redesigned and working to allow me, once again, to offer classes and training.

I’m bootstrapping, and I am rapidly reaching the limits of my ability to
do what I must without reducing the hours I spend supporting those
who lack the funds for other options.

YOUR help can make a BIG difference in how much
I am able to continue to offer for free.

TOGETHER, we can create a world that works for everyone.

In the Spirit of Community Support

BEFORE we move on to a first-person account from a member of the TBI community, an article that beautifully  illustrates a few of the problems with  “processing speed”  and “processing fluency,” I want to briefly review a concept introduced in Taking Your Functional Temperature, a prior article in this blog’s popular TaskMaster Series.

Understand & Respect your Limits

Just as limitations exist for the computer models used imperfectly to attempt to explain how our brains work, our seemingly limitless brains actually do have SOME limits built into the design.

Think of it a “wiring” problem for now.

No matter how much “memory” we add, there comes a time when we have to wait for our living grey-matter “machinery” to complete one “task” before it can access the necessary resources to handle the next.  Overload the circuits and it’s like you create a bottleneck at the switching station.

That’s true no matter HOW your brain is wired.

*see below

It is simply a myth that we multi-task
(well, not where the conscious portions of our brain are concerned) 

What’s really going on is a sort-of cognitive time-share, parsed in nano-seconds. In some of my coaching programs I often refer to it as time-slicing.

A more accessible analogy is juggling.

Variations in processing fluency (including the perception of processing speed) make more sense when you think of your brain as juggling information rather than processing information.

When we juggle successfully, we rapidly and repeatedly toss and catch any number of objects, always keeping one or more in the air while we hande the others.

For right now, I want to shine a light on the implication of three primary points — what I refer to as juggling realities.

 Juggling’s Three Realities

1. The greater the number of objects that must be juggled, the tougher the task.

2. The more varied the objects that must be juggled, the fewer objects the juggler can manage before they ALL come tumbling down.

3. Even the most accomplished jugglers eventually reach their limits.

Read those points one more time – they’re going to prove
to be VERY important in this series and in your life.

Introduction to Part Three of the Brain-Based Processing series:

To further illuminate the importance of these concepts to YOUR day-to-day functioning and the impact to your sense of Self and self-esteem (or that of your loved ones), for the next article in this series, I am going to turn the platform over to a TBI advocate.

I want you to read what HE has to say about dealing with the after-effects of Traumatic Brain Injury [or, as many say, brain damage] —  his own processing speed aha! 

I couldn’t say it better!

Even though I want you to consider his first-person article as Part 3 of the Brain-Based Processing Series, I’m not crazy about the screwy formatting quirks of the WordPress reblog function. (Many of you with ADD or NVLD won’t be able to deal with it and stay tracked on the content.)

Sooooo . . . you CAN get there from here!
You can read his article on his very own blog — right NOW.

To read the Intro CLICK HERE – link to TBI first person at the bottom

Stay tuned – MUCH more to explore about Processing Fluency — on the way to
Learning to drive the very brain you were born with™
(even if it’s taken a few knocks in the meantime).

AS ALWAYS, if you’d like notification about additional posts in this series (or any other), give your name and email to the nice form at the top of the skinny column to your right. (If you’ve done this for another series, you’re good to go!  You only need to do this once.)  Stringent NO SPAM policy.

*ATTRIBUTION & gratitude: 
sick computer, Father Time, and
juggling clown thanks to the generosity of artist/educator Phillip Martin
— link to website ALWAYS on skinny column to your right
black box graphic courtesy of Wikipedia,  Creative Commons License
man in hourglass and man jumping hurdle graphics: 

Related articles right here on
(in case you missed them above)

What Kind of World Series Posts (& related)

  1. What Kind of World Do You Want?
  2. Money Motivation Mythology
  3. Reframing Change for World Leaders 

Related Content around the ‘net

BY THE WAY: Since is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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  15. I find it remarkable that only a few studies have linked chronic stress to processing problems.

    Even the most basic understandings of neuroscience nowadays understand that our brains are set up to keep our bodies alive in times of danger.

    The simple corollary of this is that if we live in chronic stress ( and it is estimated by some that 80% – 90% of the population are showing signs of stress related illness) our attention is diverted to \”survival mode\”.

    One of the basic elements of this \”survival mode\” is a sort of heightened hyperawareness that floods us with the awareness of multiple potential threats in our environment. In this situation it is perfectly predictable that we have a roving attention and cannot settle.

    ( In fact this issue is well discussed on any board dealing with PTSD- and many PTSD patients seem to have an underlying ADHD pattern of thinking).

    Ancient Buddhist texts on attention essentially talk about the balance of perfect attention being found between laxity ( sleepiness) and restlessness ( over- arousal or fear).

    At age 50 I have been living with ADHD a very long while- most of the time quite unaware of the challenge I was dealing with. I know perfectly well, that when I am relaxed and feel comfortable i can function well, despite my wandering attention.

    Why have the researchers who have constructed the studies about attention not cottoned on to this basic fact?

    Are they stupid- or just so locked on to their own way of thinking, and the peculiar obsessions of their own \”in group\” that they are too short sighted to be of use to anyone?


    • Long time no hear — I’ve missed you (we preach to the same choir :D). Welcome back. You’re gonna’ love TBI advocates BrokenBrilliant and BISR [Brain-Injury-Self-Rehabilitation]!! Be sure to read their comments & click over to their blogs.

      I’ve never really understood why so MANY things intersecting the attentional spectrum have not been studied, but here’s my current thinking on the question:

      * Lack of funding, surely, plays into it (doesn’t it ALWAYS?!)

      * Then, of course, many adults havenever outgrown that teen urge to be part of the in-crowd, so that probably figures in subconsciously. Back in high school, most researchers were probably NOT those considered high-school-hunks, so they probably were not the ones dating the cheerleaders, right? Some may even have been made fun of for their intellect – or worse – so I imaganine that a barely acknowledged underlying fear of censure from the science bullies is a fairly effective stopper in those cases.

      The neuropsychs have been through some personal therapy in their training, surely — but a great many of the “hard” science crowd are not the friendliest with the idea, to understate the obvious, nor is much of society at large, still. The [non-psych] neuros may be disdainful as well, so they probably have little idea of WHAT’s beneath their own cognitive facades – with little chance of finding out without some rigorous self-observation.

      * “Attention” seems such an ephemeral concept to most of those who don’t struggle with its dynamics personally. How do you explain the parameters of a study that won’t sound “airy-fairy” or inspire fearf of appearing too close to the psychology (or “junk science”) line in the eyes of the rest of the science community?

      * Pragmatics are probably a big piece of it too. When all of your day is spent working on some other focus, you have any kind of family-life obligations when you go home, and a spouse with even a low-level desire to go out once in a while, I’ll bet there’s little time LEFT to think about much beyond that when things are humming along without a hitch (and how many people can say THAT very often?!) And there you are!

      So OUR job becomes handling the very real NEED for us to rattle some cages to bring the matter of ATTENTION research into everybody’s conscious awareness. That includes research into brain-based links with stress, processing fluency, or anything else that is part of the problem.

      We need to raise an ARMY to make enough noise to shout-down the Tinkerbell comments — you know, those in the peanut gallery who seem to think that their opinion on whether Attentional Spectrum disorders are real or not is important. [clap and Tink lives, don’t clap, she dies — Tinkerbell comments :D)



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