Hand Me That Thing: Rapid Automatized Naming aka Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) and Dyslexia

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

What is Rapid Automatized Naming aka Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN)?

The ability to name letters, symbols, words, or objects in a quick and automatic manner.

It is linguistic access, the ability to retrieve easily and rapidly verbal (phonetic) information that is held in a person’s long-term memory.

RAN is all about the ability to retrieve information from the memory quickly and accurately. It is also one of the simplest assessments that can be used on a child.  If you would like to see more details about that process, check out this website. https://learnlab.northwestern.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Norton-What-educators-need-to-know-about-RAN.pdf

This is a neurological process issue in the brain. RAN and reading relate because of shared processing demands, and RAN deficits are a unique and important biological cause of poor reading.

How does that relate to dyslexia?

There are five best practices for reading tenets and having RAN directly influences these tenets.  Researchers have been measuring and testing Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) for over three decades and they have conclusively proven that a majority of adults and children with reading difficulties have problems with rapid naming.

“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 have significantly longer reaction times and production durations.”

This quote is from https://bonnieterrylearning.com/blog/rapid-automatized-naming-reading-dyslexia/

Just like dyslexia as a whole, this also can run in the family. Knowing this gives you a chance to be proactive about noticing and identifying it early and gaining access to the needed support and skills training.

Like all of the other neurological things I have been writing about, that are related to and part of dyslexia, this too is on a continuum.  Each person is different.

What are the common signs of Rapid Naming Deficit?

  • Use of hands and facial gestures or nonverbal vocalization in place of words
  • Slowness to respond orally
  • Difficulty retrieving words even if they can describe the word
  • Making up nonsense words in place of the real word
  • Frequently leaving out or substituting words
  • Slower to finish writing or reading assignments, especially the larger projects

Why it matters in adults

This statement by Maryanne Wolf encapsulates the whole process well.

“If you consider that the whole development of reading is directed toward the ability to decode so rapidly that the brain has time to think about incoming information, you will understand the deep significance of those naming speed findings. In many cases of dyslexia, the brain never reaches the highest stages of reading development, because it takes too long to connect the earliest parts of the process. Many children with dyslexia literally do not have time to think in the medium of print.”

At the end of her statement, Maryanne Wolf said, “Many children with dyslexia…”  I would upgrade that statement to include many people with dyslexia.  This isn’t something a person outgrows or that just disappears and your cured. It is something that some people can train around, with practice it can improve to a point. That means that it is also something that a neurodiverse adult is also going to have to deal with daily if it is part of their genetic make-up. 

Here are some examples

  • A person is taking training for work, and the trainer calls on them to explain the process of something on a diagram.
  • A person is standing across the room from their partner, and they need them to grab something out of the fridge, they can see the item in their mind, can’t find the word for it, and just stands there for a bit finding the word.
  • A person is asked to read out loud at a meeting and skips a couple of words and replaces a few words with new ones.
  • A person celebrates their 65th birthday and notices that finding the words for things is getting harder and harder.  They say, “it’s just age.” It is age and maybe their neurology catching up to them.
  • A person says things like, “hand me that thing” or “you know that thing we did at that place last summer.” The ability to pull up specifics isn’t there are takes a long time.

I could go on and on.

Knowing that you have RAN as an adult is helpful because now you can do a few things to see if you can improve your processing speed in this area.  You can also stop internally beating yourself up for not being able to retrieve information like other people do. You can plan ahead as you age to monitor the situation.  Another thing you can look into are supplements, oils, and other natural ways that you can help support the brain. Simple things are eating throughout the day and drinking water regularly.

Suggested things you can do to increase or maintain your RAN skills

Exercises that have you retrieving memory information as fast as you can. It shouldn’t always be words. Symbols, shapes, colors, letters, and numbers should be part of the process. BONUS practice saying the words aloud.

After researching this topic for my article, I realized that I have RAN disorder. Again, none of this was around when I was diagnosed. It is one of the ways my dyslexia manifests. I can also tell you that many of my clients are somewhere on a continuum of the RAN disorder.  For one of them, it is very challenging with their job and with their work colleagues.  Recently when I was recovering from having Covid it was very clear that my RAN was not working well. I would be looking at a coffee table and need someone to hand me something from the table and I couldn’t find the word to tell them where to find what I wanted. It was a really weird feeling. As I healed, that missing link reconnected for now.  I took it as a reminder of how fragile our minds can be and how important it is to take care of our brains.  I have a new appreciation for how much skill I do have in RAN, having experienced it being worse than normal.

If you feel that you might have a little RAN disorder, I hope that you take a moment to notice where that shows up in your life.

Who might you need to share this article with so they can learn more about it and remember to laugh with yourself more often when you notice it pop up in your life?


Thanks and be well,

JoyGenea Schumer
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach, and Speaker

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