Does your child struggle to stay focussed at school?
They may not be being deliberately inattentive or forgetful but they may have an issue with 'working memory', which helps us briefly retain new information and manipulate it to perform a task without becoming distracted. Through neuroscience we know working memory is essential for learning, especially in childhood.
We use our working memory constantly in daily life, helping us to perform efficiently and effectively in academic, professional, and social settings.”
In fact, working memory is vital to maintaining concentration, successful forward planning, reasoning and problem solving; critical skills for both children and adults.
In young children, working memory is crucial for tasks such as learning the alphabet, performing mental arithmetic, or solving puzzles. As children grow older, it may impact how they understand reading and texts (comprehension), solve maths problems and complete their homework independently.
Moving into adulthood, poor working memory can impact a person’s ability to drive (there may be problems with spatial awareness and traffic cues for example), or in prioritising work deadlines and even arriving at work on time every day. The problems poor working memory can create can impact every aspect of a person’s life and the earlier we can address these issues the better.
Common signs of working memory problems in children
If your child is experiencing any of the following, they may have problems with their working memory:
- Inattentive during lessons
- Difficulty starting, continuing or completing tasks
- Struggles to wait their turn, in a game or during a class activity, for example
Working memory is not an indicator of intelligence (IQ)
In children, an effective working memory is linked to academic success and reduced working memory to poor academic performance. But it's important to separate this from general intelligence levels. Working memory is something entirely separate, it can be changed and is not an indicator of general intelligence (IQ). This helps explain why extremely bright children can struggle in the classroom. For example, a relationship has been found between poor working memory and dyslexia, and behavioural issues such as ADHD.
Working memory can be improved
The good news is the concept of 'brain plasticity' means our brain has an incredible ability to change throughout life. To learn new skills, to increase capacities and reorganise itself by making new and different connections. Ultimately, working memory improvements can result in increased focus, participation and educational attainment.
'Cogmed' - a tool for improving working memory
Developed by leading neuroscientists, Cogmed is a computerised training programme that combines learning through computer games with professional coaching. Studies show it is able to make a real and lasting improvement to working memory.
- The programme lasts 5 weeks and consists of 25 online sessions
- Each session lasts for 30-45 minutes
- The student completes a variety of cognitive tasks targeting different aspects of working memory
- The level of difficulty is automatically adjusted during each session based on performance
The benefits to your child
Published research studies have shown the positive impact of Cogmed on children of both pre-school and school age, for example, in children with ADHD and those with learning difficulties.
By improving working memory through Cogmed training, children and young people:
- Are better able to pay attention.
- Can resist distractions more effectively.
- Are able to increase their ability to self-manage their behaviours.
- Can find ways to learn in a way that is effective for them.
- Show improved learning outcomes in reading and mathematics
For more information about the Cogmed programme go to https://www.cogmed.com/research, or contact me for an informal chat. I’d be happy to discuss it in more detail and explore whether it could help your child.