Memory information

Working Memory

Working memory is the ability we have to hold in mind and mentally manipulate information over short periods of time.
Most children with language and literacy difficulties have a poor working memory which helps to explain their poor attention to task that involved processing and action on spoken instructions and mental problem-solving. Even after considerable improvement in language and reading ability, significant defects in working memory often remain and may be overlooked, particularly at secondary school. When pupils become overloaded, forget crucial information, lose their place or abandoning a task completely, this may be put down to poor attention or attitude, rather than a genuine difficulty which requires support.
There is no easy way to improve working memory. But is the children and those around them understand and work round the problem, much can be done to minimise the impact of a poor memory on day to day life.
Following instructions
– Rather than talking more slowly, pause more. Chunk information together and pause between each chunk.
– Give instructions more than once, and ask for them to be repeated back to you. This will show you how much individual children can retain at one, and make you aware of how much to expect.
– Sequence the items clearly and avoid any excess language which will only confuse the issue, after giving instructions, repeat and summarise them as a series of key points e.g. “stack the chairs, then go to the hall and ask Mr Baker if he’s got any more jobs for you. If not, come back here and we’ll get on with the display” becomes “chairs; Mr Baker; jobs; back to class”
– Encourage children to repeat the key points to themselves while carrying out instruction – saying them as a rhythmic chart will aid recall.
– Ask children to tell each other what they need to do before starting a task, making a quick note of each step (key-words rather than full sentences) to aid recall later
– Reduce the number of key points that have to be remembered by certain children unless they have a visual reminder. Break down tasks and instructions into smaller components.
– Whenever possible, get pupils to make list out themselves, either by writing or drawing items. Try to turn a blind-eye to spelling mistakes, what’s important is training children to be self-reliant, and the effort put in to producing a list, is itself a further aid to member. The end product may look messy to you, but will be more meaningful to the child.
– Increase the meaningfulness and degree of familiarity of the material to be remembers; for example, by working on new vocabulary beforehand, providing an initial overview of the task in hand or acting out the sequence of events.
– Use visual imagery to aid recall. For example, if asking the child to buy washing-up liquid and toothpaste, feed the gerbils and get the washing in while your’ out – make it clear there are 4 things to remember, then get them to imagine a scene where the gerbils are running up and down the washing line, squirting each other with Fairy Liquid and toothpaste! The effect of visual imagery is very strong and have been proved to aid recall after considerable periods of time.
– When students are on task, avoid interrupting them
Useful Aids
– Visual reminders and memory joggers
– Digital watch with date and alarm
– Mnemonics such as “double 3 – my age- my hour” to remember the telephone number “331265” or “Oswald Usually Grinds His Teeth” to spell “ought”
– A home-school liaison book with a “Things to remember” or “To do list”, Children cannot rely on their listening memory for homework/invitations etc. At first they will benefit from routinely going through the diary with an adult before they leave school/home. These checks may never become second nature but can be built into an established routine via a reminder system
– Use of mobile phones, laptops or tablets to set up alarm prompts, and to jot things down as they crop up – either as written reminders or voice messages
– A Dictaphone or digital voice recorder, particularly if handwriting is a problem
– A business card with vital information like address, phone numbers, date of birth, It’s so easy to go bland on these things just at the wrong moment
– Provide maps, diagrams, checklist and flowcharts, rather than relying on verbal instructions alone.
– Song, limericks and raps
– Number lines, number squares and pencil and paper to aid mental calculation

General

– Make sure that those involved with the child are aware of their limitations and don’t automatically dismiss forgetfulness as laziness, disinterest or inattention
– Adopt a multi-sensory approach, using mime or actions to accompany explanations, and simple drawings or symbols to accompany instruction. Words alone can soon become a blur, and additional clues benefit everyone
– Monitor children’s working memory regularly in the course of demanding activities. Look for list of losing focus and ask what they are doing intend to do next.
– Limit the number of tasks any child is expected to process simultaneously as attention to one will reduce their memory capacity for the other, (e.g. retaining instructions for a written exercise while copying the date off the board, or collecting items from their bedroom while having a conversation).
– Help children to understand accept their difficulties. Encourage them to say to others “I can’t remember all that, could your writ e it down for me please?” or “Could you say that just one bit at a time?”
– Encourage children to ask questions if they are not sure of anything, check that teaching staff are prepared for this: if a child has plucked up courage to ask for repetition or clarification, then it is extremely important that this effort is reared by a patient answer. Similarly, children will need to understand that teachers may be busy and cannot always drop everything to give an immediate answer. With will and understanding on both sides, a compromise can be reached.
– Be aware that it is always easier to remember arrangements of item when personally motivate. This is a natural facet of memory that ensure that our priorities require the least effort. It is hardly surprising that children’s and adult’s priorities rarely overlap!

Short Term Memory

It is increasingly recognised that like, adults, children can have specific memory disorders. It is known that these can adversely affect the development of other skills, such as children’s’ language development, academic attainments, independent living skill and general problem solving abilities.

Research into the links between specific memory disorders and subsequent learning difficulties and scholastic achievement is ongoing, it is useful to identify specific memory disorders as early as possible in order to ensure that children’s educational and life skills programmes are adapted to maximise their learning and independence skills, although most specific memory disorders are difficult to diagnose clearly until children reach the age of six years or upwards. There are many competing theoretical models that proposed different types of memory difficulties in adult and children. However, a lot of researchers agree that one clear difference is between short-term memory and long-term memory disorders.

Short-term memory

Short-term memory is the ability to hold information for a limited period of time, such as visual images (e.g. a shape or a face) and phonological/auditory information (e.g. a spoken telephone number or sentence). Information can be held in this way for a few seconds. If the information has to be held for longer a system or rehearsal can be used (e.g. repeating a number to yourself to help you). Should one of these skills fail to work in some way, this could lead to specific short-term memory problems. However, problems that appear to be due to poor memory can also have other causes, such as inattention, language difficulty and general learning difficulties Therefor a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment is necessary to reliably identify a specific memory disorder and rule out other possible cause of problematic behaviour.
Children who have short-term memory disorders can have particular problems in a number of areas, including:

– Speech and language difficulties (including impairments in speech production and the acquisition of language)
– Remember instructions and learning common sequences like nursery rhymes and the days of the week
– Visual learning difficulties (including learning their numbers and letters, finding their way around new environments as well as manipulating visual information like shape, colour and space)
– Managing more complex problem-solving tasks like mental arithmetic

Interventions

A neuropsychological assessment is needed to identify where the memory process is failing e.g. whether it is a problem of processing, storage or retrieval. The neuropsychologist can then advice on interventions e.g. whether better memory processes can be taught or compensatory strategies are needed. Precise assessment is needed because sometimes normal teaching and questioning strategies can inhibit learning.
Following the assessment, the neuropsychologist may make recommendations for supporting the child to improve areas of weakness and also guide teachers and parents regarding how to use the child’s strengths to maximise their learning despite their specific difficulties. Interventions will depend of the diagnostic information for each child, and his/her age and particular circumstances. There is little evidence to show that memory weaknesses themselves will show functional improvement through training, whether through games or computer programmes. It is more likely that children’s memory difficulties could be compensated for using external cues of alternative methods of presenting and manipulating information to be learned. The availability and use of these strategies is still limited. This is likely to improve over coming years, as specific memory disorders are increasingly recognised in the child population.

What are specific memory disorders?

It is increasingly recognised that like adults, children can have specific memory disorders. It is known that these can adversely affect the development of other skills, such as children’s language academic attainments, independent living skills and general problem solving abilities.

Research into the links between specific memory disorders and subsequent learning difficulties and scholastic achievement is ongoing, it is useful to identify specific memory disorders as early as possible in order to ensure that children’s educational and life stills programmes are adapted to maximise their learning and independence skill, although most specific memory disorders are difficult to diagnose clearly until children reach the age of six years and upwards. There are many competing theoretical models that propose different types of memory difficulties in adult and children. However, a lot of researches agree that one difference is between short-term memory and long-term memory disorders.

Long-term memory

The term long-term memory refers to a person’s ability to retain information over time, e.g. for minutes to hours or longer. Again there is much theoretical debate about which types of long-term memory processing are possible in humans. One commonly debated account of long-term memory is the difference between storing episodic and semantic information. Episodic memory is memory for evens or episodes that include the contextual detail of the learning experience, for example, what happen on the way to school this morning or to recall what happed on a particular birthday, Sematic memory is the ability to remember factual information that does not include the contextual details of the leaning even. For example, a child may know that the capital of France is Paris, but not remember the actual even when they were first told such a fact. There a reports of children who appear to have strength in sematic memory compared to episodic memory and vice-versa.
Children with weaknesses in their episodic memory can exhibit particular patterns of learning, behaviour and social difficulties. For example:
– They may get lost easily
– They may repeat things previously done because they do not remember doing them the first time
– When questioned about their daily experiences such as what they did at school that day, they find it difficult to provide specific details or describe evens
– They may appear socially aloof as they find it difficult to remember share events
– They may forget when things are going to happen or have happened.

Children with sematic memory difficulties will have more pervasive problems in learning the factual content of the academic curriculum. They might forget things they appear to have learned or forget things more quickly than other children.

Interventions

A neuropsychological assessment is needed to identify where the memory process is failing e.g. whether it is a problem of processing, storage or retrieval. The neuropsychologist can then advise on intervention e.g. whether better memory processes can be taught or compensatory strategies are needed. Precise assessment is needed because sometime normal teaching and questioning strategies can inhibit learning.

Following the assessment, the neuropsychologist may make recommendations for supporting the child to improve areas of weakness and also guide teachers and parents regarding how to use the child’s strengths to maximize their leaning despite their specific difficulties. Interventions will depend of the diagnostic information for each child, and his/her age and particular circumstances. There is little evidence to show that memory weaknesses themselves will show functional improvement through training, whether through training, whether through games or computer programmes, it is more likely that children’s memory difficulties could be compensated for using external cues or alternative methods of presenting and manipulating information to be learned. The availability and use of these strategies is still limited. This is likely to improve over coming years, as specific memory disorders are increasingly recognised in the child population.

The Aconbury Centre

A warm welcome to The Aconbury Centre. Working as part of Herefordshire’s Pupil Referral Service .