Learning Challenges

“I Don’t Remember.”

It’s a common refrain among students with ADHD, who often experience working memory problems as well. This means homework gets left behind, multiplication tables are hazy, and instructions must be written down. Use these 6 tricks to make remembering easier on everyone.

Illustration of profile of ADHD person's head with question mark in it
Illustration of profile of ADHD person's head with question mark in it

Children with ADHD and learning disabilities often have trouble remembering and retaining information taught in class. To improve their ADHD memory skills, help them create links and visual, auditory, and conceptual associations between bits of information. Here are six ways to do that:

1. Draw or create vivid pictures depicting information that needs to be memorized.

Since memory is enhanced by exaggeration, emotion, action, and color, the more ridiculous and detailed the image, the better. To help a student with ADHD remember the meaning of the word felons (which sounds like melons), make a picture of melons dressed in prison clothing marching off to jail. For more examples, see vocabularycartoons.com.

2. Teach memory strategies.

Some popular mnemonics include HOMES (the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior) and Dead Monsters Smell Bad (steps for long division: divide, multiply, subtract, bring down).

[Self-Test: Could Your Child Have a Working Memory Deficit?]

3. Create acrostics or whole sentences.

“Every Good Boy Does Fine” is an excellent way to help children with ADHD recall the sequence of lines in the treble clef (EGBDF).

4. Try melody and rhythm to teach a series or sequence.

There are raps, rhymes, and songs to help attention deficit students memorize multiplication tables, days of the week, presidents of the United States, and so on.

5. Use songs specially created to teach grade-level content.

Musically Aligned (musicallyaligned.com) creates music and lyrics geared to teach a science curriculum. For physical science, there are songs like “Electromagnets” and “Heat, Light, and Motion.” For teaching concepts in life science, there are “Food Chain Gang” and “Decomposers.”

6. After the lesson, have students with ADHD list the things they remember.

Ask them to do so as fast as they can, to increase memory recall.

[How Music Unlocked My Son’s ADHD Brain]

Adapted with permission from sandrarief.com, How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, Second Edition, Copyright 2005, and The ADD/ADHD Checklist, Second Edition, Copyright 2008, by Sandra F. Rief