Working Memory

We rely on many different forms of memory to function in daily life including short-term and long-term memory. Out of all forms of memory, working memory is oftentimes less understood and less recognized. Working memory is what allows people to process, store, and retrieve information for later use. Working memory relies on the ability to attend to, concentrate on, sequence, and decipher important information. Some have described working memory as a bucket in which content is continually added to over time.

Research shows that in a screening of over 3000 school-aged children, 1 in 10 was identified as having working memory difficulties. Other studies conclude that between 10-15% of all children have working memory deficits, which causes significant under-performance in many areas of learning including math, reading comprehension, problem solving, and test-taking in the academic setting. Reduced working memory impacts children in their early years of preschool and kindergarten up through college and beyond. Working memory deficits can be associated with many more-recognized disabilities including ADHD and Dyslexia.

Working memory is what allows children to successfully follow multiple step directions, count, decode (read), encode (spell), follow mathematical operations, keep their place within text, answer questions, rapidly name basic concepts (e.g. colors, shapes), paraphrase information, and recite early-learned patterns from rote memory (e.g. days of week, months of year.) Understanding the connection between working memory and language is integral for supporting the developmental needs of children. An understanding of working memory is essential for identifying a child’s strengths and weaknesses for learning in the home and school environment.

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