Toronto | Preschoolers who score lower on a memory task are at the risk of dropping out from high-school, a new study suggests. Researchers examined responses from 1,824 children at age two and a half, and then at three and a half. The data was then compared to the school-related attitudes and results of those children when they hit grade seven.
The results showed that those that did better on a memory-testing imitation sorting task during toddler-hood were more likely to perform better in school later on and therefore more likely to stay in school. The imitation sorting task is specifically effective in measuring working memory, which can be compared to a childs mental workspace.
Our results suggest that early individual differences in working memory may contribute to developmental risk for high school dropout, as calculated from student engagement in school, grade point average and whether or not they previously repeated a year in school, said Caroline Fitzpatrick from Concordia University in Canada. When taken together, those factors can identify which 12 year olds are likely to fail to complete high school by the age of 21, she added.
The researchers noted that breathing exercises and guided meditation can be practised with preschool and elementary school children. In older kids, vigorous aerobic activity such as soccer, basketball and jumping rope have all been shown to have beneficial effects on concentration and recall. Another promising strategy for improving working memory in children is to limit screen time video games, smartphones, tablets and television which can undermine cognitive control and take time away from more enriching pursuits, researchers said.
Preschoolers can engage in pretend play with other children to help them practise their working memory, since this activity involves remembering their own roles and the roles of others, said Linda Pagani from the University of Montreal in Canada. Encouraging mindfulness in children by helping them focus on their moment-to-moment experiences also has a positive effect on working memory, she added.
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