memory and adhd

Wait… What Did You Say? Memory in the ADHD Student

Making memories is an important part of being human, and our beloved camera phones seem to make the process that much easier! However… our cameras aren’t the only ones doing the work. What about when you have to remember that long 10 digit phone… oh wait… we don’t have to do that anymore either! I suppose a modern day challenge would be to remember all those tedious passwords we have to keep!

But that’s neither here nor there!

Our awesome brains deserve a little credit, too, actually a lot of credit for that (grey) matter (just a little brain joke for ya!)

While memory is a challenge for all of us, it can be an exceptional challenge for a student with ADHD. In order to understand this, we will look at the 3 basic stages of memory.

Three basic stages of memory:

Encoding: Information enters into our memory systemmemory and adhd

Storage:

  • Short-term memory (STM) : 20-30 Seconds: Information that is transferred from the STM enters into the HIPPOCAMPUS! When we repeat information over and over again it’s like sending it through the hippocampus several times!
  • Long-term memory (LTM): Can last a lifetime

Retrieval:

  • How you store depends on how you get those memories back OUT
  • Organization is key here (i.e. using the alphabet to categorize things or remembering numbers in chunks)

Something happens around you that you can see, hear and/or touch. This sensation lingers in our short-term (working) memory for about 20-30 seconds. For example, when you are having a conversation with someone and they are talking, you may be thinking of what to say next (thanks to your working memory).

Kids use their working memory all day in the classroom to follow instructions, remember where they need to be, and to keep track of their belongings and assignments (just to name a few). Kiddos with ADHD tend to struggle more with these tasks, which can make learning difficult, specifically reading comprehension.

Let’s say a teacher says, “Go to your desk, grab your book and a pencil, go the center, and finish the worksheet.” That can be a lot to remember for a child who has a deficit in this area and can be misinterpreted as purely inattention.

“How can you plan ahead if you don’t use working memory to keep your goal in mind, resist distractions and inhibit impulsive choices?” says Matthew Cruger, PhD, neuropsychologist with the Learning and Diagnostics Center at the Child Mind Institute in New York.

Here are 4 ways to help teach ways to integrate learning for kids with ADHD:

  • Teaching mnemonic devices: “Never Eat Soggy Waffles” : North, East, South,West
  • Creating visuals
  • Use songs or a melody to learn concepts
  • Ask follow-up questions

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether a child has a memory deficit or if it is a by-product of ADHD or a Learning Disorder. Receiving formal testing can be beneficial to tease them apart or better identify how they influence one another.

Megan Pearson

Megan Pearson

Megan Pearson is a member of the Neuropsychology team as the Lead Neuropsychology Technician at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. Over the past year, she has assessed over 200 children presenting with ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Autism, Dyslexia, social-emotional issues, and more. Megan earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Illinois State University in 2007 and subsequently graduated from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago with a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology in 2011. Megan is currently in the process of obtaining her LCPC credential. Megan also manages the neuropsychology blog team in developing and organizing blogs for NSPT. Over the years, she has had many wonderful experiences working with children in different capacities with a variety of backgrounds. She had the pleasure of conducting therapy and assessments with children and teens specializing in play therapy, anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, and ADHD.

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