Working Memory

If you aren’t aware of the phrase Executive Functioning, it has little to do with being a corporate executive and all to do with how our brains can self regulate all that we need to do in our lives.

There are eleven main Executive Functions (EF). 

Working memory – The ability to hold information in your memory while you perform complex tasks. 

So, what does that mean in real life and how does it impact our ability to cope in the real world?

If you hear a telephone number or website address and need to hold that in your head whilst you try to find a piece of paper and a pen or open up your laptop, you need to hold it in your working memory. For a school-aged child, being asked to add numbers in their head uses their working memory, and much of Primary Maths relies on this skill.

A brain with numbers swirling around it words working memory and executive function

If you are Neurodiverse, particularly with Dyslexia or ADHD, you may well have a working memory that is significantly weaker than your other intellectual abilities. This means that you become frustrated with yourself as you just can’t hold these numbers or words in your head long enough to use them compared to your peers. This can fuel low self-esteem and also trigger Maths Anxiety.

Working memory is probably the most significant Executive Function issue I have as a Neurodiverse adult. I have had this difficulty all my life, but until relatively recently, it didn’t really have a name, and I just felt rubbish about my memory. I have found coping strategies such as always making notes and jottings to lessen the cognitive load to have something to look at while I transfer or manipulate the information.

The good news is that working memory can be strengthened and supported. When I am tutoring ND children, I use certain strategies to help take off any unnecessary Cognitive Load and give them plenty of visual cues rather than just auditory ones. Gradually, working memory can improve. 

I can also recommend an organisation called Connections in Mind that specialises in Executive Functions and helps children and adults with strategies to improve their EF. 

#executivefunction #neurodiversity #workingmemory #mathsanxiety

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