Patty was busy making dinner and asked her son, Tommy, to go out to her car and bring in the bag of dog food she had bought earlier that day and then come in and feed Buster. Tommy ran out the door but when he didn’t return in 10 minutes, Patty went to look for him and found him in the yard, playing ball. The dog food was nowhere in sight. Tommy’s forgetfulness had once again taken over. As soon as he saw the ball in the yard, he completely forgot what he was supposed to do.
Children with ADHD frequently have trouble with working memory, an executive functioning skill that keeps information in their minds. A few years ago, my daughter’s psychology professor explained it like this: imagine a shelf in your brain. Your shelf can hold a certain number of items - your short-term or working memory; for some, that number may be higher than others. When a new thought arrives, it knocks one of the other items off the shelf. Tommy’s shelf had the thought "get the dog food" on it until he saw the ball; "I want to play ball" quickly knocked the previous thought off the shelf and off he went, completely forgetting about the dog food.
Tips for Improving Memory Skills
There are a number of activities that can help to strengthen and improve working memory as well as strategies for using tools for reminders as an aid to remembering. Look through the following tips and activities to use those that might work for your child
Activities to Improve Skills
Patterns - Use construction paper to cut out two sets of different colored circles or other shapes. Choose several circles or shapes and create a pattern. Ask your child to concentrate on the pattern for a few seconds and then cover up the pattern. Ask your child to use his shapes and try to recreate the pattern. You can start with short, simple patterns and work up to more complicated patterns as your child’s memory improves.
Video Games - There are a number of video games available to help improve memory skills. Use games like Mind Quiz or Brain Age and have your child play video games to help improve working memory.
Memory Games - A number of games make working on memory skills fun. Picture puzzles, such as "Find the Differences" can help improve memory skills. Other children’s games, such as Memory or Simon exercise the brain and give you and your child a chance to enjoy some time together. Some websites offer free games to help improve memory skills, for example Memory on theKidzPage.
Imagining Improvement - Research has shown that our minds can’t always tell the difference between what we imagine and reality and we will believe the images. Have your child imagine that he pays attention in class, remembers what he has for homework or comes home from school and completes his chores. This technique can help improve skills and learn new skills as well as build confidence.
Strategies and Tools as Aids
Use a homework or agenda notebook. Work with your child’s teacher to have homework assignments written clearly on the board each day. Your child can copy the homework assignment and, if needed, the teacher can check the agenda book each day to make sure the correct homework is written down.
Use technology to help with reminders. Tape recorders, smart phones, laptops or other technology can help provide ways for your child to write down important details, homework assignments and test dates.
"Working Memory," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, South County Child and Family, LearningWorksForKids.com
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.