What is working memory?
Working memory is the ability to manipulate information while holding it in one’s short term memory store. It is required for learning, reasoning, comprehension and following instructions and can effect students, adults and seniors alike.
“Working memory helps students to hold on to information long enough to use it.”
What are symptoms of poor working memory skills?
- Difficulty remembering facts, words, numbers or procedures
- Exhibit slow retrieval of information, even with repeated instructions
- Poor attention to detail, such as beginning to write a sentence and then struggling to remember all of the words in the sentence, skipping words within sentences and writing shorter sentences (to reduce demands on working memory)
- Difficulty beginning work and staying on task
- Constantly re-starting questions or reading
- Repeatedly losing track of belongings
“Weak working memory skills can affect learning across a broad range of subject areas.”
How can poor working memory skills affect your child?
Students with working memory difficulties will struggle to hold information in their mind long enough to use it to solve verbal questions. Weaknesses in this area may affect a range of subject areas, but are known to have a particularly negative impact on core academic skills such as reading, writing, comprehension and verbal mathematics.
Essentially, a child with working memory difficulties will hear what you say, or see what is presented, but as they are given more information they will be overwhelmed and will partially drop the earlier information in order to take further more recent information. The issue is that once the information is dropped from the working memory, it is not usually retrievable.
Many students with untreated working memory difficulties can become frustrated and consequently stop paying attention to their studies. These difficulties are also commonly association with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), learning difficulties, hearing loss, acquired brain injury and mental health issues.
“Working memory plays an important role in concentration and following instructions.”
How do we test working memory skills?
Assessments that test Working Memory:
- WISC-IV & WAIS-IV: Assess Verbal Working Memory (Subtest)
- WPPSI-V: Assess Visuo-Spatial Working Memory (Subtest)
- TAPS: Assesses Auditory Working Memory (Subtest)
- AWMA: Assess Auditory Working Memory and Visuo-Spatial Working Memory (Subtest)
- WRAML-2: Assess Auditory Working Memory and Visuo-Spatial Working Memory (Subtest)
How can you support your child?
Skill building does not generalize well to classroom performance. However, there are ways to support students that will help them compensate for working memory difficulties.
At the Listen and Learn Centre, we may recommend Cogmed or Neurofeedback as approaches to improving working memory skills.
Cogmed Working Memory Training®
Cogmed as it was developed from leading neuroscience research and is supported by a variety of peer-reviewed scientific journals. The core concept of Cogmed manipulates the flexibility of our neuroplasticity to strengthen the working memory pathways within the brain.
Cogmed is a rigorously structured program that focuses on the development of neuroplasticity and rehabilitation of weakened working memory pathways within the brain. By simultaneously offering a combination of challenges and rewards, it is able to assist and improve any loss of concentration that the student may experience. Overall clients have reported that the program (while challenging) to be ‘fun and engaging’.
Cogmed can be completed at home, or in any quiet space with reliable internet and will require approximately 25-50 minutes of your time. These sessions are generally required 3-5 times a week for 5-8 weeks. The program is offered online and may be completed on a variety of electronic devices.
Neurofeedback is a program the targets working memory difficulties by training the brain’s EEG.
For more information, please contact the Listen and Learn Centre so that we may further assist you on your road to improving the Working Memory of your child.