Symptoms of weak working memory in children

gears 4The topic of working memory I discussed with Redi Tlhabi on Radio702/CapeTalk last week generated enormous interest. Listeners wanted more details about symptoms. Clinical psychologist, Gerard Finnemore who runs the Cogmed programme in South Africa, has provided the following:

General symptoms in children

Behave as if they have not paid attention
Rarely volunteer answers
Lose their place in complicated tasks
Forget instructions and messages
Multi-tasking and sequential tasks are difficult
Usually poor progress in comprehension, reading, maths and listening
Often (falsely) seen as lacking motivation
Worsened by anxiety, depression and inter-generational poverty
Reserved or impulsive in group activities
Struggle to start and complete tasks
Easily distracted when doing something not interesting
Have trouble waiting their turn
Struggle doing maths calculations in their head
Often seems restless or on the go
Frequently lose things
Fail to progress despite working hard

In the classroom

1 . To move on to the next step in an activity, needs frequent prompts by teaching staff
2. Puts hand up to answer a question but forgets what s/he intended to say when asked
3. Frequently asks for help
4. Abandons activities before completion
5. Does not respond, or is reluctant to answer (e.g. shrugs shoulders or nods head) when asked
direct questions
6. Mixes up material inappropriately, e.g. incorrectly combines parts from two sentences rather than
reading each one accurately
7. Frequently stops during lengthy activities or those involving multiple steps
8. Needs regular reminders of each step in a written task
9. Forgets how to continue an activity that was previously started, despite teacher explanation
10. Benefits from continued teacher support during lengthy activities
11. Requires support for effective use of memory aids such as useful spellings and number lines
12. Loses his or her place in complicated activities
13. Incorrectly repeats the same response, e.g. by writing the same word twice in a sentence
14. Does not follow classroom instructions accurately, e.g. carries out some but not all steps in an instruction
15. Raises hand but gives inappropriate or incorrect answers
16. Is making poor progress in literacy and maths
17. Unable to explain what s/he should be doing in a particular activity when asked
18. Not able to focus during activities
19. Requires regular repetition of instructions
20. Depends on neighbour to remind them of the current task

For further details about assistance for strengthening active working memory, contact an educational psychologist, clinical psychologist or remedial therapist. You can also connect with Cogmed for measurable brain training programmes.

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