Working Memory in Children (Part 2)

Michael WatermanThe difference between Working Memory and Long term Memory was explored in the previous article. I will now address how Short-term Memory and Working Memory are different.

When Psychologists refer to short-term memory, either Visual or Verbal, we are referring to those situations that require a person to simply store information without adjusting it in their mind.

An example of verbal short-term memory is when we remember a telephone number told to us.

In contrast, working memory is when after using our visual short-term memory to remember a math’s exercise on the board, such as 24+ 18 for a few seconds, or long enough to write it down, that is when our working memory assists us to solve the problem.

There are many ways that we can help children who have working memory difficulties, depending on their specific learning or emotional difficulties. For instance, a child with an anxiety disorder with persistent worrying thoughts, can be assisted by reducing distractions around them, such as removing the posters in the school room.This will assist their working memory by not being overwhelmed with irrelevant information.

In contrast, a child with an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder who has working memories difficulties, may be assisted by shortening the instructions to reduce the amount of information the child is expected to retain. Secondly, it can also be much more useful for this child to have timed bursts of academic effort of 5-10 minutes rather than a prolonged lesson.

A child who is diagnosed with Dyslexia or (Reading Disorder) normally takes longer to process information, so if the teacher or parent speaks quickly, this can negatively affect their ability to remember instructions. Speaking slowly can assist these children take in the information into their working memory more effectively. It can be also beneficial for these children if activities are shortened to reduce the impact on their working memory. For instance, only providing one assignment at a time, is better than handing out three assignments on the same day.

In summary, there are many ways in which we can assist children with working memory difficulties, become more effective learners within the classroom and home environment. In exploring these options, children with learning difficulties as a consequence of poor working memory will be rewarded with higher academic achievement and improved mental health and well-being.