Bright but needs to concentrate

Have you ever wondered why some children can concentrate and finish their homework on time, while others need to be chased around the room?

In the last ten to twelve years, neuro-scientists and psychologists have made advancements in this area of brain research and we now know that this inability to concentrate is called “Working Memory Deficit”.

kids concentration memory deficit photo pin

What is working memory?

Working memory is our active short term memory. We use it to remember and work out information.

For example, when we are asked to do a mental maths question, we hold on to the numbers and functions whilst manipulating the answer. Or when we read, we process the written information and our working memory is employed to comprehend what we read.

What might indicate that someone has poor working memory?

  • Unable to keep track of time (i.e. forget how much time they have left or should work to)
  • Overwhelmed with verbally presented instructions or lists
  • Easily distracted
  • Trouble waiting his/her turn
  • Struggles with completing tasks, especially multi-step tasks
  • Is inconsistent with maths facts
  • Has difficulty with taking notes and reading/listening at the same time
  • Why does poor working memory affect concentration?

    Think of your working memory as a malleable container of limited capacity which has a lid/filter to control what goes in or out. Those with poor working memory have an even smaller capacity and a dubious filter.  Having a smaller capacity means they can only manipulate small amounts of information at any one time.  The ineffective lid/filter cannot hold on to the information that goes in and it seeps out.

    If information cannot be held and manipulated properly, the result is loss of filter. Concentration can improve over a period of time.

    What can help the situation?

    We can employ strategies to help children with poor concentration keep on track. Here are 3 simple things you can do in the home.

  • Is leaving the house on time a problem? Draw a clock face with the target time you want your child to leave by. Your child can refer to the drawing instead of asking you.
  • Not able to follow the homework time table? Use colours for each day. Red is Monday – Maths homework is on ‘Red Day’. It is much easier to associate two or three things with one colour.
  • Is not keeping to task a problem? Use a special clock called Timed Timer. It helps visualise the remaining time left on a task, so that your child can ‘see’ the pending urgency.
  • In place of verbal information, replace it with visual cues. Use colours and drawings. Be creative and make them fun.
  • Working memory training does, however, require specialist training. You might consider Cogmed Working Memory Training, a software programme designed by neuro-scientists who specialise in working memory research. The programme is presented in the form of repetitive games/memory tasks and adaptive to the user, making memory tasks more challenging if they prove to be too easy or reduced in complexity if they are too challenging.

    Training can be completed in 25 sessions over five weeks and is suited to children from 4, through to adults.

    For more information on working memory deficit for both kids and adults, check the website at

    Photo credit: 917press via photopin cc

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