One way to understand human achievement is to study the gaps between our talents and vulnerabilities. Each of us has a space between our cognitive strengths (talents) and cognitive weaknesses (vulnerabilities). Such space, whether we realize it or not, has guided us during our growth and development – most often toward doing things that demonstrate our talents and make us feel creative or alive.

Similarly, most of us naturally tend to avoid activities (or school subjects!) that depend upon our particular weaknesses. Chances are the job you are in or the subjects you favored most in school tap into your talents and minimize the expression of your vulnerabilities. All of this occurs, in most of us, with only small gaps between our strengths and weaknesses. Not so in children battling a neuropsychological obstacle.

In fact, children who are struggling with school or friendships often have very large gaps between their talents and vulnerabilities, usually 4 to 8 times the average size. It is incredibly motivating for children with large gaps to do things that express only their talents, making them feel as if they were a superhero! But those same children can become highly frustrated and confused about their abilities when asked to do things that suddenly make them feel like the slowest kid in class. There is a huge drive among these children to avoid activities – at all costs – that tap into their weaknesses when such a big gap is present.

For example, the child with a verbal IQ of 94 and a nonverbal IQ of 92 experiences typical likes and dislikes of various school subjects, while the child with a 140 verbal IQ and a 120 nonverbal IQ might truly struggle with or resist writing assignments, organizational skills, and even friendships. Clearly, gaps do affect our development and achievement! Identifying and then isolating areas of weakness is therefore a vital first step in helping a child’s caregivers and educators plan for his or her success.


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