Poor working memory in day to day life


When a child has poor working memory, you may notice the following:

In the classroom

  • Missing and forgetting verbal instructions
  • Easily distracted, especially if the work is not interesting
  • Struggling with all the tasks of writing: for example, forgetting about spelling, punctuation, layout and grammar when trying to put together and remember the words and sentences they want to write
  • Able only to remember small chunks of information when copying from the board onto paper
  • Struggle with mental arithmetic, and automatic memory of math facts such as times table
  • Struggle with problem solving that involves holding information in mind whilst working things out
  • Trouble getting started, staying on task through to completion, and self monitoring classroom work
  • Trouble learning to read, reading efficiently and comprehending whilst reading
  • Trouble planning and efficiently undertaking assignment work, or any other task that needs to be done in a series of steps
  • Forgetting books, pencils, homework, clothing
  • Disorganised desk
  • Trouble doing two things at once, such as listening and taking notes
  • When asked to speak, may forget what he/she was going to say
  • Trouble integrating new understandings with existing knowledge
  • Variability of ability and performance (sometimes the just seem to get it all right)
  • Deterioration with fatigue

Around the home

  • Unable to remember more than one or two instructions at a time
  • Easy distractibilty, forgetting what they are supposed to be doing
  • Frustration, anger, poor management of emotional responses to day-to-day tasks
  • Untidy bedroom, unable to organise cleaning
  • Forgetting to bring required books, homework, clothing home from school
  • Trouble doing the series of tasks every morning to get ready for school, even though they have been the same for years
  • Of many projects commenced, few completed, even fewer cleaned up afterwards

Social Behaviour

  • Impulsivity - failing to adequately 'think before acting'
  • Over time, children with poor WM may struggle to learn mature ways of managing complex social situations, such that their behaviour has an 'immature' quality
  • Difficulty remembering people's names
  • Interrupting (because they are afraid they may forget what they want to say), having trouble waiting his/her turn
  • Being late all the time

Self Concept and Self Esteem

  • WM problems lead to a situation where children often get into trouble for their behaviour, or fail to achieve academically to the level expected for their intelligence. Over time, this can have a negative impact on how they think about themselves, leading to poor self concept and poor self esteem.