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Remembering Your Shopping

 

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I am sure I am not the only person who forgets what they wanted when they get to the shops. Aimlessly wandering the shelves trying to remember what it was doesn’t help. Of course once I arrive back home I remember what it was. There are then 2 choices return to the shops to buy what I needed or wait until the next time I go to the shops. Returning to the shops is a pain for anyone but when you don’t drive , it is both tiring and a waste of time.

Many people have told me that I need to write a shopping list. You can’t forget what you need if you have it written down in front of you. This is very true. The problem is 9 times out of 10, I either lose the shopping list or just forget to take it with me. A shopping list really isn’t very much help sitting at home on the kitchen counter.

I thought about this for a while and I came up with an idea that works for me. So I thought I would share it with you incase it can help anyone else. I open my email on my computer. You can use your phone, but I find typing on the computer easier than those small touch  screen buttons on my phone. I write a list of everything I need at the shops and then email it to myself.  When I am at the shops I open my email on my phone and there is my shopping list. Of course you still have to remember to take your phone to the shops. However I find I am much more likely to forget my shopping list then my phone

You could also do this by sending a SMS to yourself. Which is better for you, would depend on your phone plan and internet access.  It doesn’t cost to send an email but you must have an internet connection to send it or mobile data if you send it from your phone. You also must have mobile data to access the email in the shop. If you SMS it to yourself it costs you for the SMS but it  doesn’t require data to retrieve it and there isn’t a problem if the internet reception in the shop isn’t good.

The other good thing is that I don’t have to try to decipher my handwriting. If you send your partner or children to the shops then you can just email or SMS the list to them. If like me you have bad handwriting they wont have to guess what you have written. Young people these days never go anywhere without their phones so they wont forget the shopping list either.

The only problem now is that I have to wear my glasses to the shops so that I can read the list 🙂

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Dyspraxia and Being an Education Assistant

I trained to be an Education Assistant 3 years ago. I wanted to help children who were having difficulties at school for whatever reason.Sometimes that extra time spent with a child can make the difference between success or failure. Children with learning disabilities are not stupid. They just have extra challenges that children with neuro-typical brains don’t have. Sometimes they just need to be shown a different way or more times than the rest of the class. Some things they will never be able to do quite as well as their peers  but with extra help they can improve. Other things they will achieve with extra help. Either way they need patience and understanding to achieve the best they can possibly be.

I decided to become an Education Assistant after helping voluntarily at my daughters school for 2 years. I spent 2 days a week in my daughters year 6/7 class. The following year when she moved up to the next class , the classroom teacher asked me if I would continue to help her even though she was no longer teaching my daughter. I helped one day a week for another year. Both the classroom teacher and the Headmistress of the school encouraged me to train as an Education Assistant and they gave me a very good reference. I would help the children with maths problems they didn’t understand and reading out spelling words. I also helped the teacher with marking tests. I did some photocopying  and recorded and filed test results. I got on well with the children and they would often chat to me. My dyspraxia was not really a problem with children of this age. I didn’t need to do any cutting out or drawing because children of this age can do that for themselves. I must have done a good job as I am sure they wouldn’t have encouraged me to get formal qualifications if I was useless. unfortunately most Education Assistant jobs are not with this age group.

I applied and was accepted into TAFE the following year.I had no problems with the academic work. I did have a few issues with binding books and creating puppets. They were only mild difficulties until I came to the work placement part of the course. I had to work between 2 year 1 classes. Helping the children with reading maths etc was no problem. I was a little slow on the photocopier but I did manage to do it. The problem was when you are an EA in a lower primary or pre-primary class you often have to prepare activities for the teacher. This often involves drawing or cutting. On this occasion it involved cutting. I had to cut out 60 koalas for the children to do an activity. I was concentrating so hard my head was hurting. I took longer then I should and sadly the class Education Assistant had to tidy them up when I had finished. It was very disheartening.

I was very lucky in my placement however. Unusually both the teachers and the EA understood dyspraxia. They were very good and didn’t get angry with me. The main teacher was very good . Although she was always aware of my limitations she would push me to try things I didn’t think I could do. One of these things was painting windows. When she told me we were going to paint a rhino and a leopard on the classroom windows in each room. I would do the rhino in one room and the leopard in the other. We did use some cheats and what the EA showed me to do was very clever. She traced a picture of a rhino and a leopard onto the clear film for an overhead projector. We blue tacked paper to the outside of the class window to block the light. We collected the overhead projector  from the science lab and projected the image onto the window. Then standing on a chair I had to draw around the outline with a marker pen. I wasnt entirely comfortable standing on the chair, but it was only a child size chair so it wasnt to bad. I then had to paint the rhino and leopard. It was a far from perfect job but the kids knew what it was. I was so happy I took photos to show my kids because for me that was an achievement.03062011(001)

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Sadly most Education assistant jobs are in these lower grades were they can be utilised to help the teacher with activities as well. It is a pity because I am good at maths and was fine at helping the children who were having difficulties. I could offer a child with special needs an understanding that someone with a neuro -typical brain can’t. I have been that child in fact when I go to TAFE I am still that child. Like anything in life we can all be sympathetic to someones situation. But you only truly understand how something feels if you have lived it your self. If I could get a job in an older classroom I would be fine but as most jobs continue to be with younger children were I need to be able to cut etc, I have no choice but to look for a new career.03062011(001)

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The Greatest Gift Anyone Ever Gave Me

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Growing up I was a very clumsy child. I would walk into things, drop things and knock things over. I remember we often used to walk barefoot in those days and my big toes were always bleeding because I would constantly stub them. In most families the older siblings help the younger ones. In our house my younger siblings helped me.

At school I was the child who couldn’t skip, couldn’t catch a ball or play hopscotch. I was always IT in Chasey because everyone knew they could catch me. I was the last child to be allowed to use a pen because my writing was so bad. At sport I was always the last child picked because nobody wanted me on their team. even the over weight children ( rare in those days) were picked before me.  I was frequently told I wasn’t trying when I was trying my best.

I was teased relentlessly because I was the freaky kid who couldn’t ride a bike or tie her shoe laces. I was 13 and my friends would still have to tie my laces up for me. I learnt to ride a bike at 12 but not very well. To this day I would rather walk because riding a bike is just to hard. I would sit on the sidelines and watch because if I tried to join in I knew I would fail and be laughed at.

My self-esteem plummeted. If you are told enough that you are stupid Or useless you believe it. So many times I heard why can’t you try harder. People would get frustrated with me for knocking a drink over or making crumbs everywhere while eating. I became shy to the point that I was afraid to open my mouth. So much so that if I was asked a question in class I would burst into tears even though I often knew the answer. This of course got me teased even more.

When I was 13 my mum bought the Women’s Weekly because a pop star I liked was in it. There was an article in it she read about “the clumsy child syndrome” . The article was describing me. She said it never occurred to her there was anything wrong with me, and that this was just the way I was. My mum took me to the GP who got me to do a couple of things like balancing on one leg. (Which I couldn’t do). I was referred to Princess Margaret Hospital and told yes you have Clumsy Child Syndrome. ( now known as dyspraxia or DCD)

The diagnosis didn’t really change anything. In those days there was no help for special needs children in school. I was given a few months of Occupational Therapy which didn’t really make much difference. All I was told was you have  an eye hand co-ordination difficulty and we can’t do anymore for you. Get on with your life. Of course there is so much more to dyspraxia then just  motor skills. Nobody told me that my other problems like not being able to multi task or being disorganised where part of what I had. Perhaps if I had known it may have helped my self-esteem more  but I would be well into my adult life before I discovered it.

I met my ex husband when I was 18. I was  very shy and lacked confidence. When you have spent your whole life being unable to do things and being told you are stupid, you just accept it as true. Poor self esteem had left me vulnerable to bullying and manipulation.  In 2006 he left me with 4 children aged between 2 and 13. I was scared because I truly believed I wasn’t capable of anything and I now had these 4 children completely dependent on me. I soon discovered  I was a lot happier without him. One day I was in Millers with my mum and the shop assistant said to me how different I was. She said to me how she always used to see me with my husband and I would be looking at the floor. A few people had said the same thing to me but when a stranger said it to me I knew it had to be true. I used to avoid eye contact with people because I had been told nobody liked me and I believed it.

In April 2008 my cousin told me I should try Facebook. She said it was good fun. After a few weeks I decided to add an application called Are You interested. I wasn’t interested in a relationship ( in fact it was the last thing I wanted) but it was a good way to meet people from all over the world to talk to. I wasn’t the only one using it for that reason. A lot of people were using it to find friends. But I was so shy I even found it difficult to talk to people online. I remember the first guy that tried to talk to me. The conversation was painful and very one way, with him asking all the questions. I wanted badly to be able to talk but I was just so shy I couldn’t do it.

On August 4 2008 I woke at 6 am and turned Facebook on as usual. A man I had recently added as a friend said hello and started a conversation. He asked if I had a MSN account  so we swapped over to talking on MSN. There was something different about this man immediately. I remember him saying to me that I was really funny because I didn’t ask any questions. I wanted to but I was just too shy. Usually I tell people I need to go when it is time to get the kids out of bed but this morning I remember helping my son put his shorts on with the keyboard balanced on my knee. I remember when we did say goodbye I was frustrated with myself. You really blew that I said to myself . You are so stupid not saying anything . He is never going to talk to you again.

But I was wrong . The next morning he spoke to me again  and every morning after that. Eventually I was getting up at 4 am so I could talk to him before the kids went to school. He soon started telling me off if I said I was stupid or I was sorry all the time. I didn’t even realise I was doing it. He said I wasn’t to say I was sorry when I had done nothing to be sorry for. I had been conditioned to think everything was my fault so that was what I believed.  He told me I wasn’t to say I was stupid because I wasn’t. Every time I would say it he would tell me not to. He told me he didn’t  like me to say it because I wasn’t stupid. I would always say I was sorry because I was used to being told everything was my fault. He encouraged me to do things I didn’t think I could and told me to have more confidence.  . He believed in me  and through that I learnt to believe in myself.

A couple of years later when I thanked him he said to me that he didn’t do anything. Perhaps what he did wasn’t huge in the scheme of the world, but for me and my world it was massive. Yes anybody could have done it but they didn’t. He cared and took the time to help me feel better about myself. When he saw a vulnerable  woman lacking in confidence  he didn’t try to manipulate or bully me like other people had done. Instead he tried to encourage me to feel better about myself.

I began to grow a little in confidence. If this incredibly clever man ( he speaks 3 languages and can speak a little of another 3 and has 2 university degrees) thought I was worth something then maybe I reasoned I was. One day I was talking to my cousin on facebook and she said to me “is this really my cousin Sharon” .”why ”I said. She told me that she usually had trouble getting me to say anything much.  I had been so shy that even talking to a cousin I had grown up with was difficult. Now at least I could hold a conversation.

In 2010 I arranged to meet another cousin for coffee. We hadn’t seen each other since her nieces birthday party in December 2005. She couldn’t get over how much I had changed. I remember the party well. I wanted to talk to people but I just sat there as usual saying nothing to afraid to open my mouth . Now I sat and chatted normally. I still couldn’t give a speech in public but I could have a conversation without fear.

In 2012 I finally met this man in person. I was nervous but very excited. I can’t describe what a strange feeling it was. We knew each other so well and I had told him things I had never told anyone else. Yet we were strangers in a way because we had never met. I didn’t need to worry , I felt comfortable with him immediately. That first night he asked me to make him a promise. He took his glasses off as he wanted me to look into his eyes and see that he really meant what he was saying. I want you to promise that you wont say you are stupid or fat,he said. ”Nobody else is allowed to say it either because it isn’t true”. He told me I was pretty and smart and  had to be more confident. I was incredibly touched by this. The 9 days I spent with this man were the happiest of my life. For the first time ever I felt as good as everyone else. For me it was like being let out of a cage.

I came home a different person to when I left. For some people in my life this was a problem at first. If there was a difference of opinion they were used to me backing down and agreeing I was  wrong. I was still willing to listen to the opinions off others but if I still didn’t agree with them I was confident enough to say so. Eventually they got used to it and accepted the change in me.

You are probably wondering why I am telling you this story and there are several reasons. Through living his I have realised how important self-esteem is. I accepted being treated in ways in the past that I would never accept now. We must build our children’s self-esteem so that they will grow up feeling good about themselves and not accept less than they deserve. We must think before we speak and tell them what they do right and not just what they do wrong. Anyone with low self-esteem is vulnerable to those people who like to manipulate and bully.We have all read how if you tell a child they are naughty or stupid enough then they will believe it. This is true for adults as well. However if we tell them how clever or funny they are instead then that is how they will see themselves. I would not have accepted the way I was treated if I had felt good enough about myself to know I deserved better.

The other thing I have learnt is just how damaging that self talk in your head can be. I wasnt even aware I was doing it until it was pointed out to me. The words in our own heads can be the most damaging of all. If you find your self thinking negative things stop and think of something positive about yourself. Now when I catch myself saying I am stupid, I remember my promise. I believe when we make a promise we must keep it. Now I remind myself that I am not stupid, my brain just works a little differently to most peoples. Then I remind myself that I must be more confident.

Sadly shy people are often mistaken for snobs when it is exactly the opposite.  Sometimes they just need some words of encouragement or someone to believe in them. We are all capable of doing what this man did for me . You may not change the world but you could change someones world.

I know there are many things in my life that I would not have achieved if I had not met this man including writing this blog and representing my son at the Industrial Relations Tribunal.. Perhaps you can’t understand what this man did for me just by believing in me. I don’t think he does either. Maybe you must have been in that place where you truly don’t believe you are worth anything or anyone would ever like you to truly understand. It is a horrible place and if  by writing this I can inspire just one person to be saved from it then it will have been worth it.

This man gave me the gift of self belief and self esteem. It is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. Greater then anything money can buy and I will never be able to thank him enough for what he did.

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How to Help a Child with Poor Working Memory

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Not all children with poor working memories have a learning disability. However it is more common in children with a neuro- diverse condition.These include Dyspraxia,Dyslexia,ADHD, and Aspergers Syndrome. A child with Dyspraxia is 7 times as likely to have poor visual/spacial working memory then a child with a neuro-typical brain. They are already consciously thinking about their movements ,as well as the information to complete the task. We cannot change how the brain works but there are things we can do to make it easier for children with poor working memories to achieve to their abilities.

Where possible tasks should be broken down into smaller steps. It is much easier to remember one or two instructions at a time. Then when they are completed the child can move on to the next instruction. I am a mature age student and when I am given a task in class I try to just work on one step at a time. If I look at the assignment as a whole I find it over whelming. This is especially true of verbal instructions. It is better where possible to write instructions down, either on the white board or on a piece of paper. This can easily be refered to if the child forgets what they have been asked to do. If you must give instructions verbally give one at a time and speak slowly.

Place the childs desk directly facing the board. Being visual learners they need to see what is going on and not just listen. When copying work from the board these children lose their place more frequently . The teacher is also more easily able to see that the child is paying attention and hasn’t been distracted. Avoid asking them to take notes while watching a video or listening to a lecture. It is very difficult and in some cases impossible for them to do. Writing and listening at the same time takes audio/visual working memory. If you need to do an activity with the class  that involves this perhaps someone else could take notes for the child while he/she listens.

Try to limit distractions. Keep unnecessary classroom noise to a minimum. Talking while working might work for the other students but the child with poor working memory cant filter out the distracting noise. Don’t sit the child near someone who will distract him by talking. When you have poor working memory you need to concentrate on what you are doing. If someone talks to you, you will lose your train of thought and have to start again.

After you give instructions to the child ask them to repeat the instructions back to you. If they can’t remember repeat them again. If they still can’t remember then the instructions need to have fewer steps or be written down. While they are working ask the student to tell you what they are doing and what the next step will be.   Make sure that students know what to do if they forget something. Encourage questions and never get annoyed at them for asking.It is helpful to remind students when work is due. They should use a homework diary . The students should be given time to write down their homework and the teacher should check to make sure they have done it. If they must show the teacher they have written it in their diary before leaving then they will be sure to do it.

When doing reading comprehension it is helpful if the student is given questions before hand as this helps them to remember the most important parts. They can make a conscious effort to commit these important parts to memory. It also helps them to know which information is important. Use charts , pictures and visual aids were ever possible.

Create a checklist to remind the child of things they need to remember. For things that need to be done regularly a chart can be used. This will work well at home as well as school. It can be used for things like helping the child to remember what to pack into their bag for school.  It is also a good idea to have a place to put things that are important not to lose. People with poor working memory often forget where they have put things.

Make eye contact with the child before giving instructions to make sure that you have their attention. If they are involved in something like their favorite show or video game, they may not hear what you are saying. They have difficulty processing too many things at once and may appear to be ignoring you when they genuinely havent heard what you have said. It is then very frustrating for the child to be scolded for disobeying when they simply havent heard you. The good news is that studies have shown that video games that involve strategy or planning and with navigation through different scenes can help to improve visual/spatial working memory.

Remember these children are often very intelligent they just have difficulty processing information in a certain way. This is very frustrating for them. It is our job to teach them in a way that they can understand and not make them feel they are of any less value or intelligence because of it.

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Signs of a Poor Working Memory

In a previous post I discussed what working memory is and how it may affect people with some learning disabilities including dyspraxia. What are the signs that you or someone you know may have poor working memory? In this post I would like t talk about the signs that someone may have poor working memory.

It can be difficult to follow multi-step instructions. This is particularly true if instructions are difficult to follow verbally, but can be followed if they are written down. If  the problem was that the person cannot follow instructions then they wouldn’t be able to follow written instructions either. When we are given instructions verbally we must remember the instructions while at the same time trying to work out how to put them into practice.This requires working memory. However if the instructions are written down we don’t have to remember them. We can just read them one at a time and follow them in turn without having to remember the rest of the instructions. This happens to me a lot if I have to ask someone for directions. I don’t remember more than the first couple of instructions. However if the instructions are written down I can follow them. I also find this a problem when in class and my lecturer gives us verbal instructions for a task.

A child with poor working memory will often not complete tasks they are asked to do. They are often accused of not listening or being lazy or naughty. Before getting angry with the child think about how many steps there are in your request. If there are several you could try asking the child to do one or two steps at a time depending on the child’s age. If they then complete what they are asked to do there is a good chance they have poor working memory. There is no point asking them to listen more carefully or concentrate harder because their brain simply cannot do it. EG. You may ask your son to pick his clothes up, put them in the basket , then pick his toys up and put on his shoes . He may pick his clothes up and put them in the basket but leave his toys on the floor and not put his shoes on. He may even pick his clothes up and just stand there with them because he can’t remember what you said to do with them. When you are ready to go out , you may get annoyed because he doesn’t  have his shoes on when you asked him to put them on. He will often insist that you didn’t ask him to. He isn’t lying he really doesn’t remember you asking him to. It is far less frustrating for you both if you just ask him to pick his clothes up and put them in the basket. When he has done that you ask him to put his toys away and then after that ask him to put his shoes on.

In the above example you could give the child the instructions and then ask them to repeat them back to you. A child with poor working memory will have incomplete recall of the instructions. They may be able to tell you the first one or two instructions but not the rest of what you asked. If as an adult you often forget what you have been asked to do and have to re-clarify the instructions halfway through, you may have poor working memory.

Mental Maths and mental spelling can also be difficult with poor working memory. When we do a sum in our head we must picture and remember the numbers in our mind while trying to do the calculation. If we spell mentally we must picture the word in our mind while saying the letters. This particularly indicates poor working memory if the child can perform a maths or spelling task well on paper but struggles to do the same calculations in their head. If it was just a lack of maths or spelling ability then we would expect to experience the same difficulties on paper as we do mentally.

I often repeat instructions to myself out loud when completing a task. It isn’t because I am crazy. By saying the instructions I am giving myself a constant reminder of what I have to do. I often don’t realize I am doing it unless someone points it out to me. If someone does this frequently they may well have poor working memory.

Any activities that require both storage and processing will cause difficulties for people with poor working memory. If someone verbally gives you a telephone number and you have to mentally remember it while dialing it then you are using working memory.  Sometimes I can do this but most of the time I will get some of the numbers wrong. Giving directions is another example. To give someone directions we must picture in our mind the route they need to take while at the same time explaining the way to go ,which directions to turn and street names. I find this particularly frustrating as it makes me feel really stupid and people often look at me like I am. I have found that people with neuro- typical brains  have a lot of difficulty understanding why we can’t do this.

A child with working memory problems will often not contribute much or at all in group discussions. They may also not answer direct questions put to them. This is personally one of the most frustrating issues I have to deal with. So much so that as a child I would often burst into tears if asked a question.Getting angry at them won’t help. My personal experience with this is the more I feel pressured,the harder it is to think . My brain just freezes.The more I am pressured the more it freezes.

Other signs that someone has a poor working memory are:

  • they may need to reread text that they have just read
  • more time is needed to complete tasks and the task may need to be repeated several times in order to commit it to memory
  • how well they perform a task may be inconsistent. One day they may succeed,the next they struggle with it.
  • may not finish activities due to forgetting the instructions that were given to them
  • mind my wander during tasks that are not completely interesting
  • finding it difficult to take notes and listen to what someone is saying at the same time
  • have difficulty planning and organising the steps needed to complete a task.
  • having difficulty solving any type of problem that requires you to remember some information in your head while solving it
  • struggle with any situation that involves multi tasking

Remember working memory is not the same as long-term memory. Many people have good long-term memories but struggle with tasks involving working memory. It certainly isn’t an indication of intelligence. It is however a characteristic of several learning disorders including dyspraxia

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You Can Do More Than You Think

Sometimes life throws situations at us that we think we can’t handle, but we can achieve more than we think. My son was unfairly dismissed by his employer. We couldn’t afford a lawyer to represent him, but someone had to if he was going to get justice. The only person willing to do it was me.

Anyone who knows me can tell you I am a very shy person. Even in small groups I say very little until I know people very well. Standing up and speaking in public is something that completely terrifies me and I will avoid it at all costs. This was the scariest thing I had ever contemplated. I often don’t stand up for myself as much as I should. However if someone does something to one of my children then watch out. I am like a lioness defending her cubs. I will fight for those I love even when I won’t fight for myself.

Having dyspraxia I can often appear scatter brained   because I am  unorganised  and often lose things. I have also found people equate being quiet with being stupid. My dyspraxia means I am often challenged in many areas of my life, but I am definitely not stupid. There was more to this task then just going into court and speaking. I had to prepare all the evidence into a case and then write questions to present this evidence. It was a huge task and there was a lot at stake. If someone had asked me 2 years ago if I could do this I would have said no. However I not only did it but we  won the case. The commissioner said she could see I had put my heart and soul into it.

The most difficult thing was giving my evidence. I was representing my son as well as being a witness. I could not ask myself questions. It isn’t permissible to read your evidence so I had to just say my evidence from the top of my head. I especially struggle with talking and thinking on the spot ,so it was quite a challenge. I have no doubt if I didn’t have dyspraxia I would have done it better but I could only do my best. The other thing that was difficult was cross-examination. In order to know what to ask a witnesses, I had to listen and take notes while they gave their evidence. Listening and taking notes is something I struggle with due to my poor working memory. I had to concentrate very hard , which was very tiring and made my head hurt

Never ever give up. Dyspraxia can damage your confidence because so many things can be more challenging for us than the average person. However we are not stupid. In fact most people with dyspraxia are of average or above average intelligence. Sometimes we can take a little longer because of the way our brain is wired. However the feeling of achievement when we succeed is immense. Unfortunately my son’s ex boss has appealed the decision so we must return to court. At least this time I know I can do it.

 

 

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Dyspraxia and Working Memory

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Many of the challenges I face with dyspraxia involve the use of working memory. Poor working memory can make some otherwise simple tasks difficult and affects not only dyspraxia but several other learning disabilities as well. So what is working memory ? Working memory is the part of short-term memory that allows us to remember information while using that information to perform a task. It involves processing and storing information at the same time. There are 2 types of working memory, Verbal/Auditory working memory and Visual/Spatial working memory.

Verbal/Auditory Working Memory involves being given a set of spoken instructions to complete a task and then remembering the instructions while completing the task. Verbal memory is also used to process the answer to a question that you have been asked. One example of this I always have problems with is asking directions. If I am lost I may ask someone where is the nearest shop? They say to me follow this road, turn left at the lights , turn right at the next street and then left again at the doctor’s surgery. I must remember these instructions in my head while walking along  looking for the landmarks to tell me when to turn. This is working memory, I am remembering instructions while trying to complete a task. I wont remember more than the first 2 because I have poor working memory. The fact that I also don’t instinctively know which way is right or left without thinking about it only adds to the stress on my already reduced working memory.However if you give me the same set of instructions written down I can follow them without a problem. It isn’t that I can’t follow instructions , it is just that I can’t remember the instructions.

Another example of this is remembering a phone number. Obviously the ideal situation is to write a phone number down immediately, but sometimes circumstances don’t allow this. If you have ever been in a situation where you have asked someone for a phone number and have had to remember it in your head while you dial it , then you are using working memory. Most of the time I will get 1 or 2 numbers in the sequence wrong if I try to do this, though occasionally I have suceeded.Mental maths is another example of Verbal/Auditory Working Memory. You must remember the numbers in your head while calculating the answer. It isn’t necessarily an indication of how smart you are. I am good at maths and got A grades all through school, but unless a sum is very simple I cannot do it in my head.It is not my mathematical ability that is the problem, it is my working memory.I can’t remember the numbers and perform the calculation at the same time.

I am not sure if anyone else has this problem but if I am in a group discussion and I am asked a question my  brain just freezes and I cant think.I try really hard but I can’t think what to say even though I know the answer.It makes me feel really stupid and I get frustrated. The harder I try the more my brain freezes. However if I am asked a question in writing and given time to write the answer without pressure I can do it. If you suddenly walked up to me and asked me to explain working memory ,I would stumble over my answer. Yet I can explain it here without too much difficulty.

Visual/Spatial Working Memory involves envisioning something in your mind’s eye and keeping it there while you complete a task. We use this in sequencing ,reproducing a pattern, drawing a diagram and remembering how to find your way around a place. I dread when I am out that people will ask me for directions. To do this I have to remember in my mind how to get somewhere and then give the person directions to get there. Even if I know how to get somewhere and could easily walk there myself, I still have difficulty explaining how to do it. For example if you asked me how to get to the shops,I have to picture in my mind how to get to the shops and then explain to you how to do it. While I am picturing the route in my mind I have to recall the street names and work out whether you need to turn left or right. If someone else is with me I ask them if they can explain it to the person. People close to me know that I can’t give directions . Sometimes I just say I don’t know where the place is they want to go to. It is difficult to say to someone sorry I have dyspraxia and can’t give directions.  Most people have not heard of dyspraxia and just look at you like you are crazy.

A situation I have been in often is when someone offers to give me a lift home but doesn’t know where I live. Now of course I know the way to my house, but I do have difficulty explaining  how to get there. In order to tell them I must visualise the route and then explain it, In this case I have solved this problem by directing them one street at a time as we are driving a long. I must remember to work out if we turn left or right before we come to each turn off. It  makes me feel stupid and frustrated but it does manage to get me from A to B.

Having poor working memory does not mean you are stupid. it also doesn’t mean you can’t learn or remember things. People with dyspraxia are visual learners. We therefore learn better by watching and doing.  We can learn by listening but it is more difficult for us . I have found that I must only listen and not take notes. As soon as I try to take notes I miss pieces of what is being said. I am trying to learn to speak French and learning language does involve working memory. I find learning the written words far easier than the spoken words. Perhaps I will have to settle for reading and writing but I wont give up. After all when I was born I couldn’t speak English and I learnt that.