Symptoms of Working Memory Issues

Recognizing the signs of a working memory problem

Working memory is closely correlated to both IQ and to attention stamina.

symptoms of working memory problemsDespite its critical role, working memory is a background skill making symptoms of difficulties hard to identify. If your child exhibits any of the symptoms below, seek help — the gains from improved working memory function can be significant.

Checklist for Working Memory

When looking for symptoms of working memory issues, first be sure you understand the definition of working memory. Then use these symptoms, bearing in mind their age appropriateness:

  • A need to re-read text
  • Difficulty following multi-step directions
  • Difficulty staying engaged in class
  • Test anxiety, especially on multiple choice tests
  • A need for more time and repetition
  • Inconsistent performance
  • Lack of focus and attention deficit disorders

Several of these working memory-specific symptoms are associated with multiple learning diagnoses, and indication of how critical working memory is to many learning abilities.

Learning Efficiency
Academic success is dependent on a number of skills working at a high level, many of which involve working memory: for instance, being able to retain information in class, reading with comprehension, and attention stamina. Our learning software is effective in reducing the time spent on homework and improving grades, because it helps in these various areas.

Working memory symptomsAttention Deficits
Poor working memory skills are closely related to attention because if students cannot hold information as it is coming at them, it is harder to stay engaged. These children tend to be more easily distracted and are often diagnosed as having inattentive ADD.

Reading & Dyslexia
Several of the symptoms above impact reading — both in learning to decode, and in reading efficiency for comprehension. Most of the time in reading though, the true difficulty is phonological awareness, and an inability to retain text as it is read points to inefficient and exhausting decoding, rather than working memory problems. Our reading programs target both issues.

Working Memory Development By Age

Working memory develops over time like other cognitive abilities:

  • Executive functions like “talking through something” in children initially are conducted aloud, but by age six begin to be internalized to subvocal and finally silent modes by age 9-10.
  • Recall for single units of spatial information (e.g., where on a screen a single dot appears) develops at age 11-12.
  • Recall for multiple units of spatial information (e.g., a sequence of dots tapped by the examiner) develops around age 13-15.
  • Self-organized strategies (finding hidden dots with an efficient strategy) develops around age 16-17.

Improving working memory is one of the holy grails of educational software, and it is a major focus of Fast ForWord, the training software used by Gemm Learning.

Memory difficulties related to longer term memory function can also lead to attention deficits and other learning disabilities. Learn about the longer term memory types .