Parsippany, NJ (PRWEB) June 25, 2014
There are many reasons that children struggle in the classroom. Their ability to learn is affected by a wide range of emotional and cognitive factors and parents also struggle as they seek to help their children succeed. Some of these children may need help improving their working memory. “Working memory is like a mental workspace,” says Dr. Stacey Spencer, a clinical neuropsychologist with Morris Psychological Group. “It enables us to hold on to information long enough to manipulate it or use it to complete a task. In the classroom, children use working memory when they follow multiple-step instructions, listen to and follow a story, and work with numbers to complete a math problem.” Researchers estimate that the academic performance of as many as 10-15% of children is affected by problems with working memory.
Working memory is transitory but it is not the same as short-term memory, which is only for the temporary storage of information. Working memory temporarily stores information but also organizes and manipulates it. There are two types of working memory:
“Children may have weakness in one type of working memory and compensate for it with strength in the other,” says Dr. Spencer. “While working memory affects how children learn, a deficit in working memory should not be taken as an indicator of low overall intelligence. It is one component of the many factors that comprise intelligence.”
A child with weak working memory skills may be thought to be inattentive or even to have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. “Children with ADHD generally do have weak working memory,” says Dr. Spencer, “they may also be hyperactive and impulsive. And while other learning disabilities may also be present, for many children it is the working memory alone that needs improvement.” Parents and teachers should be aware of the profile of the child with this weakness, confirm the diagnosis with professional assessment, and take steps to build memory skills and help the child learn based on his strengths.
Recognizing Weak Working Memory
Working memory develops as a child matures so a child's capability should always be assessed relative to her peer group. Some signs of a problem with working memory include:
Improving a Child's Working Memory
To confirm diagnosis, Dr. Spencer recommends assessment by an experienced psychologist, who can also devise a plan to strengthen the child's working memory. There are things parents and teachers can do to help improve working memory skills and also bolster a child's confidence:
“Working memory is critical to learning,” Dr. Spencer concludes. “In fact, working memory capacity may be a better predictor of success in school than IQ. A child who seems inattentive or easily distracted may benefit from an assessment that can identify a deficit in this area. Parents and teachers can then do everything possible to help the child fulfill his or her potential.”
Stacey L. Spencer, Ed.D., provides psychotherapy with a cognitive behavioral approach and specializes in neuropsychological assessment of children, adolescents and adults following brain injuries and in connection with attention and learning differences.