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Working memory is a better predictor of academic success in Reading, Spelling and Math than overall intelligence or IQ.

What is working memory and why is this important?

Working memory is the first step in all classroom based learning.  It is the ability to remember, process and apply information or instruction orally delivered.  If a child has a problem with working memory, this will reduce his or her ability to be successful in school irrespective of his or her IQ.

Children and youth who cannot remember their teacher’s oral instructions in as much detail and as precisely as their classmates, are immediately disadvantaged in learning to read, spell and write.

They are most seriously disadvantaged however in learning basic Arithmetic where processing exact detail is key to getting the right answer and where the memory load is the most dense.  These children are often mistakenly considered, and often consider themselves, to be weak in Mathematics when the problem is working memory.

Children and youth and even younger adults with working memory problems are often incorrectly or inadequately identified.  This misdiagnosis can have serious life lasting consequences, since missing the actual reason that the person is having difficulty can lead to a solution that does not address the problem.  Here are some examples of inappropriate solutions applied to people with working memory difficulties who do not perform well in school subjects.

Perceived Problem

Diagnosis

Solution

- To be inattentive

- To have attention deficit disorder ADD ADHD

- Medicate

- To have low intelligence

- Low IQ
- Not very bright

- Lower expectations
- Special class placement
- Individual education plan  (IEP)

- To be lazy or unmotivated

- Character flaw
- Not making an effort

- Provide punishment
- Low regard

 

The Study:

Alloway, T.P. and Alloway, R.G. (2010) Investigating the Predictive Roles of Working Memory and IQ in Academic Attainment.  Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

The researchers tested IQ in typically developing students when they were 5 years old and again when they were 11 years old.  They were also tested on their Academic skills in Reading, Spelling and Math.

The Findings:

A child’s success in all aspects of learning may be determined by the strength of their working memory, regardless of IQ score.

Conclusions:

Intelligence, generally viewed as a key predictor of academic success may be unreliable especially when working memory is significantly below the other index scores at the .05 level (not due to chance 95 times out of 100).

Educational Implications:

The study also found that as opposed to IQ, working memory is not linked to the parents’ level of education or socio-economic background.  This means that all children can have the same opportunities to fulfill potential if working memory is assessed and problems are addressed.

Does your child have a working memory problem? To find out click here.

If any of the concerns outlined here are true for your child, contact us at the Vancouver Learning Centre for a conversation about the problem.  Call 604-738-2277 or send an e-mail to andrew@vancouverlearningcentre.com to arrange for a phone discussion.

If you are prepared to consider an assessment and program, you may book a free interview to determine if your child is a good candidate for overall improvement by a targetted training program in effective listening and wrap around skill development that will allow for academic and life success.  This program emerges from a neuropsychological and educational assessment.

Here are the steps to follow to secure an assessment for your child:

  1. Read the website.
  2. Call Andrew Taylor to discuss your child at 604-738-2277.
  3. If you are prepared to proceed with an assessment, if it is suitable for your child or youth, book a free appointment with Andrew to speak with Dr. Geraldine Schwartz.
  4. If after this discussion, which should include the child or youth or young adult, it is agreed by all the participants that an assessment is appropriate, you will be given an appointment.
  5. This is a witnessed assessment (one parent sits in to observe for children and may choose to sit in with the agreement of the youth or young adult).
  6. The report is usually available within a few days.  The report, which includes the program is presented as a proposal to the family.  If it is considered appropriate a school collaboration and a school visit can be arranged.
  7. If the decision is to proceed, teachers are assigned and a schedule to begin is provided.

All this takes place in an easy, fluid, comfortable and professional manner.  Answers are provided in a timely way.  The program to remediate the problem can be set in place and the teachers and schedule assigned within ten days of the assessment.


Does your child have a working memory problem?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions, it may indicate your child has a problem with working memory.

  • Does he* seem to forget part or all of the simple instructions you give him?
  • Does he remember selectively?
  • Does he have difficulty with homework in remembering accurately what he was supposed to do?
  • Does he dislike or try to avoid school?
  • Is homework a regular struggle?
  • Does he seem disorganized?
  • Is his vocabulary weak?
  • Does he use over generalized language like ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ rather than specific words?
  • Do you think he is under performing compared to his general level of intelligence?
  • Does he seem inattentive?
  • Does he have difficulty with Math while other skills appear to be average or better?
  • Does he appear lazy or unmotivated?
  • Does he have difficulty in learning to read or understand what he reads?
  • Does he resist reading for pleasure?

*Note this is a gender-neutral problem.  Please substitute she wherever appropriate.

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above statements or questions and you are wondering what you might do about it, click here to find out the steps to follow.

If any of the concerns outlined here are true for your child, contact us at the Vancouver Learning Centre for a conversation about the problem.  Call 604-738-2277 or send an e-mail to andrew@vancouverlearningcentre.com to arrange for a phone discussion.

If you are prepared to consider an assessment and program, you may book a free interview to determine if your child is a good candidate for overall improvement by a targetted training program in effective listening and wrap around skill development that will allow for academic and life success.  This program emerges from a neuropsychological and educational assessment.

Here are the steps to follow to secure an assessment for your child:

  1. Read the website.
  2. Call Andrew Taylor to discuss your child at 604-738-2277.
  3. If you are prepared to proceed with an assessment, if it is suitable for your child or youth,
    book a free appointment with Andrew to speak with Dr. Geraldine
    Schwartz.
  4. If after this discussion, which should include the child or youth or young adult, it is agreed
    by all the participants that an assessment is appropriate, you will be given an
    appointment.
  5. This is a witnessed assessment (one parent sits in to observe for children and may choose to sit in with the agreement of the youth or young adult).
  6. The report is usually available within a few days.  The report, which includes the program is presented as a proposal to the family.  If it is considered appropriate a school collaboration and a school visit can be arranged.
  7. If the decision is to proceed, teachers are assigned and a schedule to begin is provided.

All this takes place in an easy, fluid, comfortable and professional manner.  Answers are provided in a timely way.  The program to remediate the problem can be set in place and the teachers and schedule assigned within ten days of the assessment.


What you can do about a working memory problem.

Working memory problems can be seen at an early age.  When children in kindergarten or Grade 1 are not speaking or using language or vocabulary or following directions at the level of their peers they can be permanently disadvantaged throughout their academic journey.  Even if they outgrow the problem in later life the gaps and deficits they have accumulated along the way produce permanent barriers to success as they proceed.

What can be done about weak working memory or weak oral processing skills?

At the Vancouver Learning Centre, working memory has been assessed for three decades and a targetted instruction process called The Effective Listening Program has helped hundreds of students achieve academic results closer to their potential.  Intense training in improving working memory is central to many programs.  This releases the students to perform more effectively at their potential.

In addition:

  • Training in filling in gaps and improving vocabulary levels is integrated into their programs as needed.  New word learning procedures are taught.  This also improves the general language and vocabulary skill measured by the WISC IV and the WAIS IV Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI).
  • Specially developed learning-to-learn skills for visual learners are taught to improve overall academic performance.
  • Lessons in new content are visually presented while students catch up in working memory skills.
  • Strategies to provide an approach to solving challenge level problems are taught.
  • A timely preview of classroom curriculum called the ‘week ahead’ program improves classroom performance.

To find out how working memory skills are measured click here

If any of the concerns outlined here are true for your child, contact us at the Vancouver Learning Centre for a conversation about the problem.  Call 604-738-2277 or send an e-mail to andrew@vancouverlearningcentre.com to arrange for a phone discussion.

If you are prepared to consider an assessment and program, you may book a free interview to determine if your child is a good candidate for overall improvement by a targetted training program in effective listening and wrap around skill development that will allow for academic and life success.  This program emerges from a neuropsychological and educational assessment.

Here are the steps to follow to secure an assessment for your child:

  1. Read our website
  2. Call Andrew Taylor to discuss your child at 604-738- 2277.
  3. If you are prepared to proceed with an assessment, if it is suitable for your child or youth,
    book a free appointment with Andrew to speak with Dr. Geraldine Schwartz.
  4. If after this discussion, which should include the child or youth or young adult, it is agreed by all the participants that an assessment is appropriate, you will be given an appointment
  5. This is a witnessed assessment (one parent sits in to observe for children and may choose to sit in with the agreement of the youth or young adult).
  6. The report is usually available within a few days.  The report, which includes the program is presented as a proposal to the family.  If it is considered appropriate a school collaboration and a school visit can be arranged.
  7. If the decision is to proceed, teachers are assigned and a schedule to begin is provided.

All this takes place in an easy, fluid, comfortable and professional manner.  Answers are provided in a timely way.  The program to remediate the problem can be set in place and the teachers and schedule assigned within ten days of the assessment.


How are working memory skills measured?

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC IV) (6yrs. 6 mo. to 16 yrs. 11 mo.) and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS IV) (16 yrs. 0 mo.) and older, are used to measure intelligence and cognitive competence.  Four Indexes are combined to create the Full Scale IQ (FSIQ).

They are:

Index

What they measure

Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI)

- Vocabulary, verbal abstract thinking, personal, social, emotional and academic knowledge

Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI)

- Visually based non-verbal performance and reasoning skills, especially pattern building and pattern recognition.

Working Memory Index (WMI)

- Ability to process orally presented detailed information and act on it.

Processing Speed Index (PRI)

- Speed and accuracy of visual and visual motor task performance in a visual written and tracking task

Ten of the 14 subtests that make up these individual Indexes are then combined to form the overall Index or Full Scale IQ.  This is said to measure the overall intellectual ability that is highly correlated with academic performance outcome.

This information whether formally measured by a Psychologist using standardized tests or intuited by a teacher based on classroom experience is key in developing expectations that often affect academic outcome for the child or youth.

The formal measurement of IQ usually follows some kind of academic failure or failure to thrive in the academic setting.  The students are usually flagged by a teacher, in consultation with colleagues and superiors.  The Full Scale IQ determines future academic placement and if it is weak can place low outcome ceilings on a students’ overall education outcome.  Such placement often provides serious barriers to achieving the gateway skills and credentials necessary for post secondary training (such as English 11 and 12, Math 11, Socials 11).  This determines work life outcome and is therefore a very serious step.

When the Working Memory Index (WMI) is significantly lower than any of the 3 Indexes, this may be a clue to a learning disability in processing oral information rather than low IQ.

In these cases combining the weak score with other higher scores lowers the overall IQ, however, the higher scores act to mitigate the low scores and the result is average.  This suggests that academic outcome should be average.  When the student does not perform within average parameters,  he or she may be thought to be lazy, to be not making an effort, and to be suffering a deficit etc.

Higher order stress for students and their families is often the result of this very common and serious mistake.  In addition, research indicates that teachers’ expectations seriously affect performance outcomes and overall confidence and self esteem.  Lower expectations due to working memory weakness may affect a person’s overall education outcomes and therefore his or her whole life.

If any of the concerns outlined here are true for your child, contact us at the Vancouver Learning Centre for a conversation about the problem.  Call 604-738-2277 or send an e-mail to andrew@vancouverlearningcentre.com to arrange for a phone discussion.

If you are prepared to consider an assessment and program, you may book a free interview to determine if your child is a good candidate for overall improvement by a targetted training program in effective listening and wrap around skill development that will allow for academic and life success.  This program emerges from a neuropsychological and educational assessment.

Here are the steps to follow to secure an assessment for your child:

  1. Read our website.
  2. Call Andrew Taylor to discuss your child at 604-738-2277.
  3. If you are prepared to proceed with an assessment, if it is suitable for your child or youth, book a free appointment with Andrew to speak with Dr. Geraldine Schwartz.
  4. If after this discussion, which should include the child or youth or young adult, it is agreed by all the participants that an assessment is appropriate, you will be given an appointment.
  5. This is a witnessed assessment (one parent sits in to observe for children and may choose to sit in with the agreement of the youth or young adult).
  6. The report is usually available within a few days.  The report, which includes the program is presented as a proposal to the family.  If it is considered appropriate a school collaboration and a school visit can be arranged.
  7. If the decision is to proceed, teachers are assigned and a schedule to begin is provided.

All this takes place in an easy, fluid, comfortable and professional manner.  Answers are provided in a timely way.  The program to remediate the problem can be set in place and the teachers and schedule assigned within ten days of the assessment.

Geraldine Schwartz PhD

 




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