Short-Term Memory Problems in Children

Memory is a type of ability that allows you to store information you have encountered in the form of memories. Memories are the result of a complex process involving the brain. The cerebral cortex and the hippocampus in the brain help process memories and the information they contain, and the cerebral cortex stores the data, explains KidsHealth 1. However, memory does not always function perfectly, which is why forgetting things sometimes is normal.

Significance of Short-Term Memory

When children have continuing memory problems, the situation can interfere with areas of their life that rely on remembering information. For instance, learning at home and school requires children to pay attention to information so they can recall it later. Short-term memory is responsible for storing information you need to remember in the near future, which can range from seconds to hours. Examples of information held in short-term memory include a telephone message you must pass on to someone else later, a passage you just finished reading and what your teacher said in class earlier in the day.

Types of Problems

Short-term memory problems in children involve their ability to pay sufficient attention to information and their ability to encode information in short-term memory properly, notes the Center for Development and Learning. Encoding information in short-term memory means transferring data to short-term memory for future recall, and it depends on your ability to first pay adequate attention to the information. An inability to attend to and encode information effectively can make a child's daily life and educational experiences difficult and frustrating.

Impaired Memory Features

Children with short-term memory problems often have difficulty remembering things that happened in the last day, states the Center for Development and Learning. When affected children do attempt to pay attention to events as they occur, they may be unable to sustain their concentration long enough to pay attention continuously throughout the event, which can cause them to only understand obvious information that requires no more than minimal mental effort. The results of such tuning in and tuning out may include chunks of missing knowledge, an inability to associate new information with related information encountered in the past and an unwillingness to pursue activities that demand prolonged mental attention, such as homework.

Improving Short-Term Memory

Adults can teach children with short-term memory problems strategies designed to improve their concentration and ability to retain information in short-term memory. Common methods include reading actively by taking notes and highlighting important words, and repeating new information and explaining what it means after you encounter it the first time. Children who have short-term memory problems may also remember information more efficiently if they receive a handout with a summary of lectures beforehand, or if their parents or teachers prime their memory by briefly discussing what new tasks involve before the tasks begin.

Long-Term Memory Consequences

Failing to address short-term memory problems can lead to problems with long-term memory, which children depend on to store information accumulated over longer periods of time. For example, long-term memory holds the information students need to answer questions on tests and to perform routine tasks over and over again with ease. If children cannot pay adequate attention to new information and transfer it to short-term memory properly, their long-term memory may not be able to store or retrieve it properly, either, because it only has access to the faulty version in short-term memory.