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Does your child have a hard time keeping one bit of information in mind while doing something else? For example, you’re doing laundry together, and your child’s in charge of folding the clothes. But your child leaves to answer a text, saying he will be right back and forgets to come back and fold.
Working memory is one of your brain’s executive functions. According to the IDA, 20-50% of children with dyslexia have weak working memories compared to 10% for students who do not have a specific learning difference.
Doing mental math. The teacher asks kids to add 40 and 13 in their heads, and then subtract 5. The child with weak working memory might remember the numbers the teacher said to add: 40 and 13. But he might not recall what he is supposed to do with them. Or he might not hold on to the sum (53) so they can subtract 5 from it.
Following practical instructions. When children with weak working memories are told a set of instructions, like long division, they may not remember all of the steps. Or they might not remember the correct order.
Using information later. Some children with weak working memories may find that the information they have remembered doesn’t make much sense. Because of working memory problems, the brain didn’t package it properly in the first place.
Children use working memory all the time to learn. It’s needed for things like following multi-step directions or solving a math problem in her head.
You can help your child improve working memory by building simple strategies into everyday life no matter what grade your child is in these tips work in most if not all grades and helps students recognize how they can best study.
1. Be Calm.
When sitting down to work on homework or study with your child, it’s important that you are mindful as to how you are feeling. Before you start to work with your child, make sure you are able to model calm. This will help regulate your child’s emotions and help her to process and remember information. If you are calm, then your child is more likely to be calm.
Having a bad day? Guess what? You are human. Before sitting down to do homework, take a family walk, play basketball, or take 5-10 minutes to yourself. It’s a win-win for you both!
2. Use visualization.
Encourage your child to create a picture in his mind of what he just read or heard. For example, ask your child to describe what happened after reading a page, paragraph, or chapter – what it looks like.
3. Teach it to you.
Ask your child to teach it to you or ask questions that have the student explain the concept to you. Being able to explain how to do something involves making sense of information and mentally filing it. Maybe your child is learning a skill, like what are the steps for long division. Ask your child to teach you this skill. What are the steps? This lets your child start working with the information right away and help the brain to hold on to it.
4. Practice active reading.
I don’t know about you. But there are sticky notes and highlighters in pretty much every room of our house and at work. There’s a reason highlighters and sticky notes are so popular: Jotting down notes and underlining or highlighting text can help children and adults keep the information in mind long enough to answer questions about it. Talking out loud and asking questions about the reading material can also help with working memory. If you can connect what your child is learning with emotions – she’s more likely to remember the important details.
When our daughter had to write a paragraph at home to summarize a chapter her teacher read in class, sticky notes were a lifesaver. Her teacher had the class write a sentence per sticky note and label it B, M, E. Beginning Middle and End. Then at home she placed the sticky notes in order and wrote the sentences for her paragraph. Simple yet brilliant idea to help children with working memory.
5. Chunk information.
Do you still remember your home phone number as a kid? What about your social security number? Do you have to look up either or do you just remember it?
It’s easier to remember a few small groups of numbers than it is to remember one long string of numbers.
Keep this in mind when you need to give your child multi-step directions. Write them down or give them one at a time.
6. Create timelines, diagrams, and mindmaps.
Our brains love remembering things in sequence. You can use simple pictures and illustrations to help your child visualize the concepts, including people, locations, and details. Use poster board or copy paper to make a large timeline
Diagrams can be a great way to use visuals to process and understand new topics or review topics.
Mind maps are pretty popular right now. Children can use lots of color and pictures to represent the concepts they are learning.
Here is a great resource – https://www.dyslexiclogic.com/blog/2015/10/30/teaching-mind-mapping-to-children-with-dyslexia
7. Use multisensory.
Using multiple senses to process information can help your child with working memory and long-term memory.
A few examples:
- Write tasks down so your child can look at them.
- Say them out loud so your child can hear them.
- Walk through the house as you discuss the chores your child needs to complete.
- Have your child jump rope, shoot hoops, or bounce a ball when learning. Our daughter loves to jump rope or bounce a ball when saying and spelling her red words.
The more senses you can involve the more the brain will be stimulated and wakes it up to learn.
Get your child involved – what would he like to try? Try it and see if it helps. Kiddos love to move – it’s boring to just sit for hours at the kitchen table struggling to study and learn after spending a full day at school in her desk. Get creative and make it fun!
Another great resource –
If you want to learn more about memory and tips to help your child. Pick up a copy of Dr. Daniel Franklin’s book Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities: Strategies to Succeed in School & Life with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD & Processing Disorders.
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Resources Mentioned in the Show
- Episode 20 – Dyslexic Voices with Dr. Daniel Franklin
- Article – What is Working Memory? Understood.org
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