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Nonverbal Working Memory

I talked before about working memory as one of the executive functions, and it turns out that there's two types of working memory. One type of working memory is about words. So when you're reading, all of your words are being thrown into your working memory and held there so that when you get to the end of the paragraph, you can have comprehension for what you just read. But there's another type that most people don't think of, and that's non-verbal working memory.

This is about where you put stuff. It's the mental map that you have in your mind, so when you're driving, you can see where you are going, or when you're parallel parking, you get a general bird's-eye view about what might be happening, and you're holding that information in your mind while you're doing some problems allowing over here. So a lot of kids who have delays or challenges and working memory can also be pretty disorganized, so they might have a backpack where they've just thrown all kinds of things in there.

I think of the backpacks of these children a bit like a drunk drawer in your kitchen. We all have one. We just throw all kinds of stuff in there, and we have a feeling that what we're looking for is in there. But it takes us a long time to find that thing, or it's in there and we just can't spot it and then it feels lost forever.

For a student, this is a real challenge, if they can't find their work, they don't know they've completed their homework... This is a complaint that I hear from parents, My child completed their homework, but then they didn't turn it in, or they lost it. Books get lost, mittens coats, pens.

A lot of times these kids are showing up unprepared for class because they're disorganized, so we had head works, have strategies that we teach kids about. For example, how the backpack should be organized, we color code things, the math, the math book and the math notebook are always read, and writing is always yellow, or assistants, such as Les.

We teach these kids that when you put something down, a lot of kids who have delays in executive functioning, we'll put things down without a purpose, so they'll come in and they'll take their shoes off, let's say, and without a purpose, they just drop their shoes there and so their life becomes like a junk drawer where they know their shoes are in their house somewhere, but they're not quite sure where they are, and of course, this adds a lot of time to their day, so that their days tend to be very inefficient, people who are disorganized and to have very inefficient lives as far as time is concerned.

So again, at head works, we teach them, your books are always gonna be in these positions, your pens and pencils will always be here, and then when you go home, when you take your shoes off, we want you to use the strategy, for example of only... There's only three places you're allowed to put them in a purposeful meaningful way, they're either gonna be by the door, in your closet or some other place where you're gonna put your glasses, there's only three places that you can possibly put them, or your pants, or your books or what have you. So again, it's just strategies about teaching these kids how to lead a more organized and purposeful existence about where things belong.

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