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Kare Psychology CogmedIs your child falling behind at school?

Or perhaps their teacher has expressed concern about their behaviour in class. As a parent, it can be upsetting and frustrating when you feel like you’re doing all the right things at home, but your child is still struggling or acting out. In this situation, it’s important not to blame yourself. Often, there is an explanation for this behaviour.

According to a recent study from Young Minds Matter, almost one in seven 4-17 year olds have experienced a learning disorder in the last year, which is equivalent to 560,000 Australian children and adolescents. Students with learning disorders were found to score lower on average in NAPLAN tests, have more absences from school and have a lower levels of connectedness and engagement with school work. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) was found to be the most common childhood disorder among children and adolescents.

At the same time, research shows that approximately 4% of Australian children have learning difficulties. These are different to the learning issues caused by developmental disorders like autism and can include:

  • Dyslexia: A condition that affects reading and language-based processing skills
  • Dysgraphia:  A learning disability that affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills
  • Auditory Processing Disorder: A condition that affects how sound that travels unimpeded through the ear is processed or interpreted by the brain
  • Dyscalculia: A learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts

So, how can parents or teachers tell if their child or student is struggling with learning or behavioural difficulties? It’s important to look out for these signs.

Signs your child may have a learning difficulty:

  • They have difficulty with reading or writing
  • They have difficulty understanding words or concepts
  • They have inconsistent or poor academic performance
  • They have difficulty remembering information
  • They have difficulty with numbers or concepts related to time
  • They struggle to follow simple directions
  • They do not feel confident about their schoolwork

Signs your child may have behavioural problems:

  • They have difficulty completing tasks
  • They have a tendency to interrupt others
  • They are forgetful and have trouble getting organised
  • They have a tendency to act inappropriately in social situations
  • They have difficulty following or remembering instructions
  • They daydream or fidget excessively

Often, there is overlap between the signs of learning and behavioural difficulties, so it’s important to visit a child psychologist for an assessment.

Treatment options

When your child is struggling with learning or behavioural difficulties, the obvious solution may seem like medication. However, medications for neurodevelopment disorders simply treat the symptoms, not the cause. As soon as the child stops taking the medication, the same issues come back. There are also various side effects associated with these types of medications, including insomnia, stomach issues, mood changes or dizziness. Scientists are also still not entirely certain of the impact that these types of medication can have on young brains.

Luckily, drugs aren’t the only treatment options for behavioural or learning difficulties. Cogmed ™ Working Memory Training is an evidence-based program which can help children, adolescents and adults improve their attention by training their working memory.

What is working memory?

Think of working memory as the search engine of the mind. It’s what allows you to keep information ‘online’, manipulate it and use it in your thinking. Working memory is responsible for responding to stimuli and taking action. Without sufficient working memory, children have trouble paying attention, staying on task, following instruction and remembering information — making it a common factor in most learning and behavioural disorders or difficulties.

This video from Dr. Susan Gathercole is a great 3-minute explanation of working memory:

As Learning Discoveries puts it, “it is it our working memory capacity that determines our cognitive performance and how quickly we learn new tasks.” The good news is, your working memory can be trained — which is where Cogmed comes in.

How does Cogmed work?

Cogmed is based on the work of Dr Torkel Klingberg and his colleagues at the Karolinksa Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. It combines cognitive neuroscience with innovative computer games to improve attention problems caused by poor working memory. It consists of 25 training sessions, each 30-45 minutes long, over a five week period. Each session consists of a selection of various tasks that target the different aspects of working memory. Cogmed training is structured and intensive and must be done under the guidance of a qualified coach like our Educational & Developmental Psychologist Maria Karefilakis.

Research shows that after Cogmed training, children showed significant improvements in assessment marks, working independently, using appropriate social skills, remembering instructions and finishing assignments.

While most of us have limitations to our working memory, severe difficulties with it can dramatically affect a child’s confidence, school performance and social abilities.

If you believe your child would benefit from Cogmed or further assessment, use our questionnaire to do a quick self assessment. At the end of the questionnaire you can enter your details to have us call you back.


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