Memory Difficulties & Literacy

Some children with memory difficulties can find reading and spelling more difficult than their peers.

  • Their reading may be laboured as they can be over dependent on decoding at the phoneme level.  Children with dyslexic type difficulties can have problems with the 'unitization' of sounds (see Bresnitz, 2006).  This is the ability to process larger units from spelling patterns to whole words and connect them to phonological and semantic codes in memory.
  • They may find it difficult to organise their ideas for writing.
  • They may take longer to learn and retain new spellings.

These children can be helped by:

  • Introducing joined handwriting as soon as possible as this can reduce orientation and place finding difficulties
  • Using pattern and sequence in the teaching of phonics e.g. through onset and rime
  • Using dictated sentences as part of their spelling practice work
  • Using multisensory techniques to learn spellings in 'word families'
  • Using mind maps to organise and record ideas.  See 'Introducing children to mind mapping in 12 easy steps' by Eva Hoffman.

Memory difficulties can also negatively affect the reading comprehension of children.  Gathercole and Alloway explain the demands of the task as,

"by holding the words that have been recognised from print for a sufficient period of time to enable the reader to link the words together to produce a meaningful interpretation of the clause or sentence, or even larger sections of text."

This is made even harder for children who are struggling to decode the words they are reading!

These children can be helped by:

  • Reading the questions before they read a passage so they are cued in to what they are looking out for
  • Using cloze procedure exercises to 'engage' with the text meaningfully
  • Highlighting or underlining key words or sentences
  • Some children find it helpful to read aloud rather than 'in their heads' as they can listen to the text and self monitor for meaning more easily
  • Working through a text paragraph by paragraph.