The term ‘working memory’ refers to the capacity to store and manipulate information in our short term memory for brief periods of time. It provides a mental workspace that is used in many important activities in learning. Children with Down syndrome are better at storing and processing visual information than auditory information (information that is presented orally). This specific difficulty with auditory short term memory and processing will affect:
- Vocabulary development
- Mental computation and problem solving
- Language comprehension
- Listening skills
School activities that involve a high level of auditory processing on the part of pupils include Story-time, Assembly, oral whole-class lessons, circle time, mental maths and anytime children are given verbal directions or instructions.
Memory training activities can improve auditory memory skills. Also, evidence suggests that learning to read is an activity that can have benefits for overall working memory. Some examples of activities that can help support or develop memory skills (especially auditory memory) are listed below:
- Give auditory information in small chunks, strip of any unnecessary vocabulary
- The best way to reinforce auditory information for children with Down syndrome is to use visual supports. Use symbols, pictures, diagrams and photographs.
- Consider presenting information in graph, diagram or mind-map format where possible.
- Use songs, rhymes and clapping rhythms to help with learning off sequences such as the alphabet, tables, days of week, etc. The melody or rhythm will help trigger the child’s memory.
- Reward and praise good listening
- Use listening comprehension activities to practice auditory memory skills. Some resources are available online: http://www.instructorweb.com/resources/listeningcomprehension.asp
- Prim Ed publications also produce a range of Listening Comprehension activity books, which are widely available in educational suppliers and major bookstores.
- Play memory games such as ‘repeat the secret code/ telephone number’, ‘I went to the shop and I bought….’ etc. The purpose of these games is to measure and extend the amount of auditory information the child can retain. Start with 3 items and gradually increase as the child is successful. Say each digit or word at a rate of one per second (e.g. ‘Listen to these numbers and when I am finished, repeat them back to me – 1 … 4 … 7’… or ‘Listen to what I bought in the shop today, and then see if you can say them back to me – eggs, sausages, corn flakes …’)
- Play listening and memory games such as Kim’s game, Guess Who, Simon Says, etc.
- Some fun computer-based general memory games are available online: try: