Ever forgotten where your keys are? Can’t remember if you turned the alarm on? Gotten aggravated because your child can’t remember to brush his teeth when you send him to the bathroom? Yep, those are WORKING MEMORY problems! We all have them. The good news? It’s a skill that can easily be built with practice. The bad news? It’s frequently a challenge for many of the students at our practice and things like ADHD or anxiety don’t help at all, unfortunately.
1. Give a Preview of Upcoming Information. To ensure that your student is listening and ready to receive information, provide a preview of what you need to tell them. “Hey, do you have a minute so I can tell you something? Your grandparents are coming this weekend and I need to tell you what we will be doing each day.” Beginning this way helps provide a context for what your student is about to hear making the information easier to process and remember.
2. Organize, Simplify, and Repeat Directions. Try to distill your directions down to their essence and, if possible, organize the directions into steps to make them easier for your student to remember. Also, whenever possible, remove negative emotions from your instructions, as students with executive functioning issues can become distracted and overwhelmed by these emotions and miss the instructions entirely. “Okay, your grandparents are coming tomorrow and I need you to do three things before they come. One, put your clothes away, two, clean your room, and three mow the lawn. So clothes away, clean room, mow lawn. Do you have that? Clothes away, clean room, mow lawn.”
3. Encourage the Use of an External Aid such as a Phone or App. Help normalize your student’s need for support by reminding them that all people have tools they use to help them recall information and share what works for you. “This is a list app I have on my phone. When my boss gives me tasks to complete, I write them down here so I don’t forget.” Ask your student what tools they think might work for them and if they know where they are getting stuck. “Do you think a notebook or an app like this might be helpful for you too? Are you able to write down all the instructions you receive for homework or do you feel like you might be missing some steps? How can I support you?”