Skill of the Week: Working Memory

The Executive Functioning “Skill of the Week” is Working Memory. This is the ability to hold information in your head while performing multi-step tasks.  This is more than just remembering something, but rather using that information while also completing a complex task.   You can easily remember a list of four items, but when you travel to the grocery store, park the car, walk up and down several aisles, select and pay for those four items, all without carrying a written list, you are using working memory.    When your child is able to remember the combination numbers to unlock his locker at school, then applies those numbers to the process of spinning the dial, reversing direction of the spin, and stopping exactly on the numbers, he is using working memory.  

If you find your child has difficulties remembering to pack his water bottle and mouthguard in his gym bag for basketball practice or often forgets to bring her completed math paper back to school, there are tried-and-true strategies that you can introduce to him or her to help.  Below is a list of simple techniques that not only help to remember specific tasks or items, but also aid in the development of future working memory abilities.  

  • Repeat the words to yourself and aloud several times to activate auditory involvement

  • Make checklists--your “to-do” list

  • Write down directions, in a simple, step-by-step format

  • Create mental pictures or visual stories

  • Create a mnemonic device, a silly saying, a song, or a rhyme

  • Develop a routine, practice it often, and use it consistently

  • Use technology to  help--use your cell phone to set alarms or reminders, type lists in the “notes” section, and so on

  • Minimize distractions when you are actively working on memorizing