Mind the Cognitive Gap
The phrase “Mind the Gap” refers to the gap between the train door and the station platform, particularly on the London underground system. It reminds passengers to be careful when entering and leaving the train. The warning is necessary because there is nothing to fill the gap and an unwary passenger could fall into it.
There are plenty of gaps in the world – generation gaps, gaps between one’s front teeth and the well-known retail clothing chain. One of the most frustrating gaps for children and their parents is what we refer to as a cognitive gap. A cognitive gap is the difference between and individual’s current cognitive capacity and their potential cognitive capacity. It can also refer to the difference between their current cognitive capacity and the cognitive capacity needed to master the skills and acquire the knowledge expected of them in an academic setting.
Cognitive capacity refers to the relative strength of cognitive processes or skills such as attention, memory, and visual and auditory processing. Cognitive skills are the processes in our brains that take in, recognize, understand, organize, store and retrieve information. They are the foundation of learning. Weak cognitive skills can keep a child from achieving the academic and life success their parents want for them. Stronger cognitive skills can help them excel.
Every child on earth has cognitive strengths and weaknesses; every child is unique. But for many children, there should be a big sign and recorded announcement as they enter their classrooms: “Mind the Gap.”
What do you do when you hear “Mind the Gap” on the train? Of course, you lengthen your stride and cross the gap. But what if your legs just aren’t long enough to cross the gap? That’s the difficulty that faces many children in the classroom – there is too big a gap between what their cognitive capacity can handle and what is being asked of them by the curriculum. Children who struggle with reading are often have weaknesses in verbal memory and/or verbal reasoning. Children who struggle in math may do so because of underdeveloped working memory (the ability to hold information in the mind while they think about it) or because of weaker sequential processing. These are just a few examples.
Telling children who struggle that they should try harder to bridge those gaps is like telling them to instantly grow longer legs so they can step from the train platform, across the gap, onto the train. If they can’t, they will probably miss the academic train.
While none of us can instantly grow longer legs, we know that cognitive capacity can be developed. With the right kind of cognitive training, the cognitive gap can be filled making that step from the platform onto the academic train far less daunting. Start with our free Guide to Cognitive Skills.