Why can our children sometimes tell us all about a movie they’ve watched but can't seem to remember that we’ve asked them to put their washing in the laundry? Do they have a problem with their memory? What about us? Is it a problem when we have heard some information only to have it slip from our memories moments later?
Remembering and acting on what we hear requires us to use our auditory working memory.
Auditory working memory can be described as a mental sticky note, where you jot down the information you have heard. You keep the note handy while you are doing something with that information. This could be remembering instructions that you have been given or a word or sentence you need to write down.
Auditory working memory plays a crucial role in learning. Those who have a poor working memory may find it difficult to:
Learn new words, how they sound and what they mean
Pull apart words to spell them
Link new information to what they already know
Develop reading comprehension
The great news is that we can do a lot to support our auditory working memory. We know that it’s easier to remember what we hear when
We pay attention to the information
The information has personal relevance to us
It triggers an emotion in us
We can quickly link it to something else we already know
Here are 8 tips on how to support your child’s auditory working memory
Make sure you have your child’s attention before giving them a task or important verbal information. You can use the acronym BEES to prepare them to listen.
Teach your child how to respond when they hear you call out the word “BEES.”
B - Be still - turn your body to face me
E - Eyes - look at me with your eyes
E - Ears - turn on your ears, ready to listen
S - Say it back to me - repeat what I have said so I know you have understood.
Give information in small chunks. This may mean that you only give your child one step at a time.
Give tasks in a clear sequence. It is much easier to remember “first unpack your bag then put it in your room”, than “before you put your bag in your room, make sure you take out your lunch box and all of your homework”.
Put it on paper. If you find yourself frequently reminding or nagging your child to do complete tasks, you’re probably both getting frustrated. Try writing or drawing a picture of each step you need them to complete. If the list is long, fold it over so that only one or two steps are visible. Children who are overwhelmed with auditory information can also be overwhelmed with a visual list. Keep it short. When your child has finished a step, they can look for the next one.
Make a video. An alternative to putting your information on paper is to make a short video on your phone. List out the steps, tasks or instructions you need them to remember. They can watch and rewatch the video to make sure they have heard and completed each part.
Use a calendar. Write or draw pictures for upcoming events on a calendar, and keep a visual schedule for each day. This will help your child remember what you have told them is happening in the day and cue them to prepare for the upcoming activities.
Play games like
Simon Says and the shopping list game (I went shopping and I bought… with each player repeats the list then adds on a new item). Gradually increase the amount of information players need to remember.
Take turns adding to a sentence, e.g. I went for a walk. I went for a quick walk. I went for a quick walk to the park. I went for a quick walk to the park and went on the swings.
Before you go to the shops, ask your child to remember several things on the list. Rehearse these on the way to the shops, then ask your child to recall them once you get there. They will be very excited to go and find the items you’ve asked them to remember.
Hide an object, then give instructions on where to find it, e.g. “go to the kitchen door, take 5 small steps, then look under the cup.”
These activities are loads of fun and will increase your child’s confidence to remember longer pieces of information.
Be patient. We know that some days our auditory working memory is more efficient than others. If we are in a noisy environment, we’re tired or hungry, or just feeling overloaded or stressed, it is harder for us to remember those facts, sounds or words that we hear. As with all things, some days, our auditory working memory will be better than others.
Our Speech Pathologists can help your child develop skills and strategies to support their auditory memory and prepare for learning. We also work with clients to develop their listening, reading and writing abilities which are often affected by weak auditory working memory. Contact our team to discuss how we can support your child’s learning.