Working Memory ADHD, Dyslexia, etc

Dyslexia: Not Enough Space

Students with dyslexia don’t have enough space in their Working Memory to process . . .

Students with dyslexia don’t have enough space in their Working Memory to process the information on the page. Reading is a complex activity that requires students to recognize and remember letters and words, to remember their order in a sentence and to process what this order means. So to understand the meaning of this sentence: “Mary walked to school on a bright day”, students have to put the individual speech sounds together to read each word. Then they have to remember each word in the correct order to understand the meaning of the sentence. Studies on students with dyslexia demonstrate that their Working Memory limits their ability to remember and process sounds and words, which makes reading much harder.

Reference: Berninger, V. et al. (2010). Relationship of Word- and Sentence-Level Working Memory to Reading and Writing in Second, Fourth, and Sixth Grade. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 179-193.

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the contribution of working memory at the word and sentence levels of language toreading and writing outcomes. Measures of working memory at the word and sentence levels,reading and writing, were administered to 2nd (N = 122), 4th(N = 222), and 6th (N = 105) graders. Structural equation modelingwas used to evaluate whether the 2 predictor working memoryfactors contributed unique variance beyond their shared covarianceto each of 5 outcome factors: handwriting, spelling, composing,word reading, and reading comprehension. At each grade level, except for handwriting and composing in 6th grade, the word-level working memory factor contributedunique variance to each reading and writing outcome. The text-levelworking memory factor contributed unique variance to readingcomprehension in 4th and 6th grade. The clinical significance of these findings for assessment andintervention is discussed. ARTICLE

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ADHD: Jet without Wings

Working Memory controls your student’s attention. It helps them direct their . . .

It helps them direct their energy, control their behavior, and ignore distractions. Students with good Working Memory are able to stay on task because their Working Memory tells them to stay focused. Students can often be so full of energy and excitement, in this way they are like jets. In order to fly, jets need not only the power, but the ability to direct this power. This is why jets have wings. Students with ADHD have all the power, but they don’t have the wings to control their behavior.

Reference: Holmes, J., Gathercole, S.E., Place, M., Alloway, T.P., & Elliott, J. (2010). An Assessment of the Diagnostic Utility of Executive Function Assessments in the Identification of ADHD in Children. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 15, 37-43.

Abstract: Deficits in executive functions have been widely reported to characterise individuals with ADHD. The aim of this study was to evaluate the utility of a range of executive function measures for identifying children with ADHD. Eighty-three children with ADHD and 50 normally-developing children without ADHD were assessed on measures of inhibition, set-shifting, planning, problem-solving, response inhibition, sustained attention and working memory. Measures of sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios and diagnostic odds ratios were calculated. Executive function tasks effectively discriminated between children with and without ADHD. Measures of response inhibition and working memory contributed the most to the discriminant function. Cognitive measures of executive function can be used to help identify children with ADHD and could be useful as additional diagnostic tools for clinical practitioners. ARTICLE

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Autism: Turn Down the Radio

Working Memory Because of a low Working Memory, students with Autism struggle with distractions. Imagine a cashier counting . . .

Imagine a cashier counting the money in a register. All of the sudden, a blaring Radio is turned on. But, they are able remember where they are in the count because their Working Memory allowed them to maintain attention on the task at hand, and adapt and adjust to the new situation. Students with Autism have a low Working Memory, which means that they struggle to ignore distractions, or to adapt appropriately to a dynamic environment. In class, for example, their low Working Memory makes it difficult for them to adapt to and participate in classroom discussions where there is no set structure. Similarly, when they switch subjects, or when something unexpected happens, it is like a blaring radio. They are like a cashier that loses count, and as a result they can become frustrated and distressed.

Reference: Alloway, T.P., Rajendran, G., & Archibald, L.M.D. (2009). Working memory in children with developmental disorders. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 372-382.

Abstract: The aim of the present study was to directly compare working memory skills across students with different developmental disorders to investigate whether the uniqueness of their diagnosis would impact memory skills. The authors report findings confirming differential memory profiles on the basis of the following developmental disorders: Specific Language Impairment, Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Asperger syndrome (AS). Specifically, language impairments were associated with selective deficits in verbal short-term and working memory, whereas motor impairments (DCD) were associated with selective deficits in visuospatial short-term and working memory. Children with attention problems were impaired in working memory in both verbal and visuospatial domains, whereas the children with AS had deficits in verbal short-term memory but not in any other memory component. The implications of these findings are discussed in light of support for learning. ARTICLE

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Dyspraxia: The Write Stuff

If a student has trouble writing, they will struggle to succeed in school. Imagine having three fingers taped together . . .

Imagine having three fingers taped together and trying to write a sentence. You would have to learn a whole new way to put the pencil to paper to get your words down. You would be so engrossed in learning how to write that you would forget what you were writing about. This is what it for students with dyspraxia. They struggle with fine motor skills like writing, and their Working Memory is so busy with writing letters, that it is hard to remember how to spell the words, or where they are in the sentence. They also have a poor Working Memory, which means that they also struggle with combination of motor difficulties and trouble processing and remembering information can make even simple classroom activities a challenge.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. (2007). Working Memory, Reading and Mathematical Skills in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 96, 20-36.

Abstract: The aim of the present study was investigate the relationship between working memory and reading and mathematical skills in 55 children diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder (DCD). The findings indicate a pervasive memory deficit in all memory measures. In particular, deficits observed in visuospatial short-term and working memory tasks were significantly worse than in the verbal short-term memory ones. On the basis of these deficits, the sample was divided into high and low visuospatial memory ability groups. The low visuospatial memory group performed significantly worse on the attainment measures compared to the high visuospatial memory group, even when the contribution of IQ was taken into account. When the sample was divided into high and low verbal working memory ability groups, verbal working memory skills made a unique contribution to attainment only when verbal IQ was taken into account, but not when performance IQ was statistically controlled. It is possible that the processing demands of the working memory tasks together with the active motor component reflected in the visuospatial memory tasks and performance IQ subtest both play a crucial role in learning in children with DCD. ARTICLE

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Dyscalculia: The Small Blackboard

If a student struggle with Math, chances are they struggle with Working Memory. When it comes to math, Working Memory is like a . . .

When it comes to math, Working Memory is like a blackboard. It is the place where we store all of the numbers we have to calculate and order. In particular, visuo-spatial Working Memory helps students to visualize number order, relative value (which number is bigger or smaller) and gives us a place to store the calculations needed to answer a multi-step problem.

Reference: Geary, D. et al. (2009). First-grade Predictors of Mathematical Learning Disorder.Cognitive Development, 24, 411-429.

Abstract: Kindergarten to third grade mathematics achievement scores from a prospective study of mathematical development (n = 306) were subjected to latent growth trajectory analyses. The four corresponding classes included children with mathematical learning disability (MLD, 6% of sample), and low (LA, 50%), typically (TA, 39%) and high (HA, 5%) achieving children. The groups were administered a battery of intelligence (IQ), working memory, and mathematical-cognition measures in first grade. The children with MLD had general deficits in working memory and IQ and potentially more specific deficits on measures of number sense. The LA children did not have working memory or IQ deficits but showed moderate deficits on these number sense measures and for addition fact retrieval. The distinguishing features of the HA children were a strong visuospatial working memory, a strong number sense, and frequent use of memory-based processes to solve addition problems. Implications for the early identification of children at risk for poor mathematics achievement are considered. ARTICLE

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