Symptom Tests

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

Working memory, a component of executive functioning, is where your child stores information he or she needs to complete a task. A working memory deficit could explain his difficulty working out math problems in his head or with reading retention.

Working memory, often referred to as short-term memory, is part of executive functioning skills. Think of working memory as a small table. On it you place your thoughts, ideas, and information you need to store to use in a related task. The table in your mind used for working memory can only hold so many items. As you add bits of information, the table becomes full. Then, when you add another item, something falls off, forgotten. It is why your child forgets why he went upstairs (maybe to clean his room) or why he forgets to hand in his homework. The thought—“Hand in my homework”—was right there, on the table. But then the table filled up—with thoughts of friends, getting to class on time, or the video game he played last night. The original thought of “hand in my homework” fell off the table and was quickly forgotten.

Deficits in working memory can also explain why a child has difficulty working out math problems in his head or with reading retention. Reading retention requires you to remember what you read in the previous paragraph and relate it to the one you just read. But, if the first paragraph slid off the table, your child might need to start over, reread, and try to remember.

Working memory tends to strengthen as a child matures (his brain can hold more items on the table), but someone with working memory deficits as a child might always experience them. Besides strengthening memory skills, external strategies such as writing lists can help.

This self-test is designed to determine whether your child shows symptoms similar to those from a working memory deficit. If you have concerns about possible working memory problems, see a health professional. An accurate diagnosis can only be made through clinical evaluation. This self-test is for personal use only.

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