* Note: I thought the ideas in this article were good so want to share this
Adapted from an article by Heather Gilmore, LLMSW
Available on: http://pro.psychcentral.com/child-therapist/2015/05/3-effective-strategies-for-improving-working-memory-in-kids-with-adhd/
“One of the most consistent findings in research studies is that students with ADHD have poor working memory, particularly when they have to remember visual information, such as graphs or images. As part of a government-funded project that I led, I found that students with ADHD were 4x more likely to have working memory problems compared to their peers without attention problems. This has serious impact on their learning. As a result of working memory problems, students with ADHD perform struggle in all areas of learning. They can also find it difficult to cope with simple tasks in the classroom, such as following instructions, keeping track of where they need to be, remembering to do their assignments, and so on.” —-Quote by Tracy Packiam Alloway, PhD.
A child with a diagnosis of ADHD is likely to experience challenges with working memory, the part of our short-term memory that helps us to process what is currently going on in our surroundings and/or our own thoughts.
Having difficulties with working memory can create problems in learning, problems following instructions, and can make a child feel like they don’t know how to complete tasks. Even if a child does not have a co-occurring learning disability, working memory problems can make it appear that way since their grades may be very poor.
Although medication has been found to help some children with working memory issues, typically, the effects only last while medication is being taken. There is support for other methods of improving working memory skills without medication, as well.
3 Effective Strategies for Improving Working Memory in Kids with ADHD
1. Define and Discuss what “Paying Attention” Looks Like
Although working memory and attention are not exactly the same thing, working memory does relate to attention in that kids with limited capacity to hold many things in their working memory at once as well as to hold the “right” things in working memory, will have more difficulty paying attention.
Having a discussion with your child about what “paying attention” looks like can help them to learn what it actually means to pay attention. Include things such as look at the adult/teacher whey they are speaking, only speak when it is your turn to talk, only talk about the topic at hand, be still except to move to complete the task (such as move hands to complete a homework assignment). Paying attention will “look” a bit different depending on the activity.
Repeat the discussion many times.
Reinforce improvements in paying attention. First, assess how long your child can pay attention, such as by timing how long he can follow the “rules” of paying attention that you have discussed with him while he completes a homework assignment. Then, provide a reward for paying attention for that long. Then, provide rewards for slightly longer amounts of time paying attention.
2. Practice Remembering Larger Bits of Information
Kids with working memory difficulties are likely to hold fewer items in their working memory. The average number of pieces of information that can be held in working memory at any given time has been said to be up to 7. Some more recent research says that it is more likely to be an average of 4 items.
Kids with working memory difficulties, particularly with ADHD, are likely to lose what is in their working memory more quickly unless they some how process it and move the information into long-term memory.
To help kids improve their working memory storage, you can play silly games such as creating a list of tasks the child has to complete and seeing how many they can remember to do. Have parents play, too. The tasks should only require a single action. You can also make the tasks funny, too. Some examples include: clap your hands, pick up that blanket, wiggle your body, spin around, etc.
3. Play Memory Training Games
Although occassional memory game playing will likely not improve your child’s working memory that much, playing memory games more frequently may help to some extent.
Some games your child could play include: Simon, the card game War, Uno, or Concentration, or any of many other games or apps that require memory and attention.