Is your child forgetful? Can’t remember dates, times or names? Has no idea what is for homework tonight? Loses things easily?
Your memory is a complex tool. Some things you may only hold onto for a few minutes (i.e. Which page should I open my book to?), but other things are held onto nearly forever (i.e. Your first address or phone number). Short term or “working” memory is mainly controlled and organized in your prefrontal cortex. This is located in your frontal lobe, right in the front of your brain. Your frontal lobe is the “organizer” of your brain—it helps with planning, time management, organizing, and prioritizing. It also helps with memory.
Some kiddos who struggle with attention will also struggle with memory–they often go hand-in-hand. Memory loss can also be a sign of something more significant, such as a stroke, brain injury, or something else neurological. If your child is having SUDDEN, or UNEXPLAINED memory loss, check in with your doctor to make sure it’s nothing more serious.
How can I help my child at home?
Here are a few ways to help improve your child’s memory:
- Repetition: Repeating things over in your mind helps you to remember them. For example, when you walk into the grocery store, do you ever repeat the items you need to buy over and over in your head? Bread, milk, oranges…. You do this because the repetition helps your brain to recall the items once you’re in the store.
- Visualization: Visualizing something in your mind involves all sorts of neurological processes—and it helps you to picture and recall something you have seen. When you’re driving in a familiar place, do you ever use landmarks, street signs, or familiar houses to help guide you home? You’ve memorized this route thanks to visualization. For students, visualizing can be helpful in class. Can you visualize how the teacher did this problem on the board yesterday? Can you visualize where that state was on the teacher’s map?
- Categorization: If you’re heading into Target or Walmart and know you need about 10 things, you can group them into which areas in the store to find them. This is categorization! For some of us, our brain naturally categorizes things we see or think about. For others, this is a learned skill that will absolutely help to improve memory! For example, if you ask someone to name as many animals as they can think of, most people will naturally begin naming animals in a similar category (farm, zoo, water, pets, etc) because that is how they are stored or “organized” in our brain!
- Association: This strategy helps us to remember things based on something else we know that is similar. We may remember someone’s name based on someone else we already know with the same name. New neighbor’s name is Sue? No problem! I already know someone at church named Sue— I’ll remember this much easier now that I’ve made a mental association.
- Chunking: Breaking information down into smaller portions or “chunks” help us to remember it. For example, we naturally read and say phone numbers in chunks (i.e. 555.555.5555) rather than reciting 10 numbers all strung together. Remembering information in smaller amounts is more manageable for our brain and working memory to store.
- Mnemonic Devices: Trying to remember the mathematical processes in order? “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” stands for…. Parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. Easy peasy! Many students use mnemonic devices in school to help them remember capitals, the planets, etc. This is a great strategy you could use on a daily basis to help you remember important information.
- Music: Putting information with a familiar tune can certainly help you remember it! For example, students may sing songs that include grammar rules, math facts, or our 50 states. Having that rhythm associated with information we are trying to memorize helps our brain retain it!
If you are a SLP and have some other memory strategies, leave them below! I’d love to share with parents and other SLPs. Thanks!!