Long-Term Memory Problems in Children and Adolescents: Assessment, Intervention, and Effective Instruction

By Milton J. Dehn | Go to book overview

2 CHAPTER
Memory Systems and Processes

A middle school student named “Abby” was brought in by her mother for an evaluation and tutoring. Abby had been adopted at birth. Not much was known about the birth mother’s health or behavior during pregnancy, but the use of crack cocaine was suspected. Academics had always been challenging for Abby, but with tutoring and her parents’ support, she had acquired average skills in oral language, reading decoding, mathematics calculation, and spelling. Abby was well organized, well behaved, very attentive, and studied much longer than the average student. Despite her skills and efforts, Abby, who wanted to do well in school, was struggling in most of her academic subjects, especially science, social studies, and mathematics. Her borderline failing grades were mainly due to poor performance on classroom exams, even though her mother helped her study for each exam. Abby’s mother reported that Abby seemed to know and understand the material when they studied but often performed poorly when tested. Most of Abby’s teachers attributed her poor performance to lack of effort and motivation, an attribution her mother thought was untrue. When her mother suggested that Abby might have a memory problem, Abby’s teachers were skeptical. The teachers argued that Abby seemed to learn new material just fine, and when quizzed immediately following a lesson, she could recall the information as well as other students. Abby’s early development was normal and there was nothing noteworthy in her health history. Abby’s adoptive mother reported that the first indication that Abby might be having learning problems came to light when Abby was having difficulty remembering nursery rhymes that were read to her day after day.

After a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation was completed, the explanation for Abby’s poor test performance became evident. Abby had mid-average verbal and auditory abilities, with low–average visual processing, fluid reasoning, and processing speed. Her academic skills were commensurate with her intellectual abilities. There was no evidence of a specific learning disability. The telling scores were her memory scores. Her learning, short-term memory, and working memory scores were average. As observed by her teachers, Abby could learn new material and recall it well immediately and shortly after it was learned. However, Abby’s longterm retention of that same information was clearly deficient. Within 30 minutes, she was forgetting more content than would be expected. Even with prompts and cues her recall did not improve much, and on the standardized memory test her

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