WHY would a fourteen year old have such a poor short term memory? Any ideas?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by MidwestMom, Oct 17, 2010.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    We have a nightmare going on at school because we were tricked into signing an IEP last year that dismisses my daughter N. from Special Education. They told us she could just go back to Special Education anytime if she had problems...hahaha. Now they're saying "Well, you signed her out of it so it will take a long time." The short version is hub and I are going to mediation and the school districts are both freaking out so maybe we really won't have to go that far, but N. can not pass her classes without interventions because she can't remember what she is taught. This is how sh e explained it to us, not verbatim.

    "I can study all day and all night, but I have a bad memory and will not remember during the test."

    And it's true. She does all her homework and gets A's and B's on the homework. She takes good notes. She studies. She is not a troublemaker and is a hard worker. She does have ADD and an auditory memory problem, but because she did so well WITH INTERVENTIONS last year they discharged her from Special Education. Well, we're taking care of that in a way that isn't making them happy, but it's the only way to get her reinstated...long story. But any ideas on what would make a normal kid who is definitely not on the spectrum and who has no mental health issues have such a poor memory? This shows up at home too. She forgets things all the time and can not organize. It's beyond just her ADD.

    We are neuropsychologist testing her, but the waiting list for the best neuropsychologist is long. I'm just curious as to what you think may be causing it. She used to be able to use her notes during testing and we are trying to get that reinstated. On her last World History test, in spite of getting all A's and B's on her homework, turning it all in, taking notes, and participating in class she only got 3 right out of 50. Because she failed it, she couldn't play in her team's last volleyball game and that's where she feels good about herself...in sports. We've already met with the school to get her extra help, but she still won't get Special Education help, like the notes for tests (only the Learning Disability (LD) kids can get that). They keep saying "We can't do it because you agreed to discharging her from Special Education." (sigh) The thing is, the only reason we signed was because they also said "She can go right back into it if she has trouble." Hub was there. Daughter was there. We argued long and hard and finally gave in. But they didn't write THAT on the IEP (yes, we should have checked it over first). But they DID say it...that's why we're going to mediation. And the mediator that we talked with said something interesting. "The system is set up for the child to fail first THEN you get help. Write down in your note to the district that you want to prevent her from failing." Grrrrrrrrrr. Well, that's what we did, with the mediator on our side. We sent in the papers to ask for mediation yesterday...but what can we do for daughter until this is all sorted out?

    What would cause memory problems other than anxiety, which I doubt is the whole picture? She is not a particularly anxious kid. Thanks for any ideas. Frazzled mom here.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2010
  2. Farmwife

    Farmwife Member

    My difficult child had/has the same issue, this issue presented itself in 3rd grade and the mental health issues are more recent...just to give you an idea.

    Of course all kids are different, blah blah blah ;)

    The word auditory was a HUGE red flag for me in your post. In the results of the neuropsychologist we had auditory memory and processing issues, minor issues. We also found that my difficult child learns in pictures instead of words which isn't generally how school is taught. My difficult child is easily capable of honor roll grades when he is "running on all cylinders". Although he is classified for spec. ed. he is very bright, just some difficulty connecting all the dots sometimes.

    He always had the forgetting problem. I noticed it in the summer after 3rd grade. He had memorized the times tables very well and we could quiz him with no problems. A week or so later he forgot them, literally. He spent that summer re-memorizing the times tables a handful of times, he wasn't cheating so I knew something wasn't right. He also has trouble doing multi step instructions even at 16. I can trust him to do very complex tasks, he is a problem solver sometimes but if I ask him to do 3 simple things all at once he totally confuses them. Example: please put this glass in the sink, get my purse out of my room and put your shoes on so we can go. He'll put the glass in my room, forget my purse and go get his shoes on. ;) He tries real hard though.

    I am sorry to hear about the school issues, we are surviving them but it wasn't easy to get what bare minimums we have now...I feel your pain. difficult child having a special, smaller and more focused study hall group has made a world of difference. Noisy or busy areas are just too much of a distraction for him to be able to concentrate. Though that is a common theme I think the auditory issue makes it worse.

    I honestly believe the neurospsych will be a vital tool for you. Not only will it have evidence you need to fight the school but it may make sense out of some of your difficult child's more mystifying symptoms. I know the wait seems endless and waiting for results even more so but you will be so glad to have it, even forever and a day later. It hoovers to feel like you are losing ground/time with this age group, I know. In the end those results will help make sense of your difficult child in ways you probably always suspected and could never put your thumb on. I keep saying that if it weren't for our neuropsychologist results and our amazing psychiatrist we would be completely lost as a family. The small gains we have made are due only to one test and one doctor, the rest has been useless at best.:sick:

    Finally, the easiest and most common issue leading to memory loss (besides drugs) is stress. Too much long term, low level stress makes swiss cheese out of the psyche.:whiteflag:

    Any chance of 504 help until spec. ed. determination? I doubt it if you have the average district who hates to help but just some food for thought.
  3. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    Executive Functions. There's a thread in the archives about it.

    Also, IDEA 2004 states that the child does not have to fail before receiving services. That's how it used to be; not anymore.
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Does she do better with one type of test over another (multiple choice vs. essay or short answer)? Could some of it be test anxiety -- the added pressure to perform under time limits? Is there too much going on in the classroom during the test, or too many people? Does she get overwhelmed by too much information on the page (chunking the test might help)? Besides these kinds of accommodations, we also use Namenda for difficult child 2 and it seems to have helped his memory issues enough to merit keeping it on board. He still has issues forgetting, but he is MUCH better overall.

    I would call the neuropsychologist office once or twice a week to ask about cancellations and be as squeaky a wheel as you can. Hope you get some answers soon!
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thank you SO MUCH, Warrier Moms.
    Yes, she does better with multiple choice! When she has to fill in the blanks, she goes blank.
    I am going to look up executive function...bet that's it and the neuropsychologist should catch that.
    My school district doesn't like to mess with hub and me because we don't give up...lol. Our kids get more interventions than others do and a lot quicker because we refuse to wait for them to fail before going over the school district's head (sadly we found the only way to get action is to supersede the school district). It's one thing if my kid isn't trying and a totally different issue if s he is giving it her all and still unable to take the test. Puzzling everyone.
  6. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    My difficult child has horrible short term memory, but I have not noticed it with school stuff but with stuff at home. He is also horrible with directions, we will be going to school the same route we have taken for over a month, and he will pipe up and say we have not gone this way before. I will say difficult child, this is the way we go every day. He will say oh, I guess it is, and look around. It is really weird.

    I would think the auditory issues may have some to do wtih it, and would think the np will be able to piece it apart.
  7. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Also could be test anxiety.

    Multiple choice will help bring the answer to mind because it's there among the wrong answers for her to choose from. Thereby triggering the information that she has studied.

    I never had test anxiety in my life until a few years ago. My method for dealing with it was to answer mult choice or matching questions 1st......this would calm me down enough to allow the fill in the blank answers to pop into my head, same for essay questions. You know the knowledge is there.......it's just getting it triggered from her memory to the test that seems to be the issue.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi again and thanks.
    It's not test anxiety. She takes some types of tests fine. It's her reading problem and probably executive function issues (now that I read about them, I'm convinced of it).
    I'm not looking forward to the school fight, but it has to be done. I don't know why schools fight so hard to keep kids who obviously need it from getting help and then trick parents into removing that help once it's working, but I won't quit until she gets her supports back. Nor will hub...I've never seen him this angry about school. And we do know how to navigate the system as we've done it before, but it's so tiring. And, of course, the SD hopes it's TOO tiring and the parents just give up.
    Not us...but, yeah, it takes an emotional toll...
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We've had this problem with difficult child 1 and easy child 2/difficult child 2; currently experiencing a major increase in this with difficult child 3. According to his speech pathologist, the problem is directly connected to the ADD. It's the inattention at the brain level, that is not allowing the memory paths to be laid down properly. Then you have the problem of retrieval of the fragments of memory that may have successfully been paid down - it is very difficult for the brain to properly retrieve, when it is in a distractible state and especially if the student is in a highly distracting or stressful environment at time of retrieval.

    You can try to improve the ability for the brain to pay attention, but this can come at the cost of increased anxiety and also increased mental exhaustion. But take it from us - you cannot force an ability that is not properly there. Not all the coaching and tuition in the world will work, if the brain cannot lay down the memory. But if you can resolve this for her in some way, the underlying ability ill; finally be able to shine through.

    This does get better as she gets older and her brain matures more. Remember, my problem children, who had this really severely, are now adults. Maturing adults, who ow can function a vast deal better. As they get older, they also learn how to adapt and develop their own coping skills.

    A useful coping skill for her to learn, is to keep written notes. If she is given a task to do, she should write it down. Make lists. Keep notebook and pencil in her pocket at all times, and use it. As a study aide, learn to use mind maps. She will need help form a tutor (you perhaps) first, to get the hang of it. But these help with more complex multiple-mental-step tasks such as writing tasks or summarising text.

    Keep fighting the SD. Go for the jugular if you have to. The longer they let her fail, the more difficult it will be for her to have the confidence she needs to adapt. And confidence is also very important here.

  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Marg, THANK YOU. She always says "I can study all day and night and I *stll* won't remember." So what you say makes sense. She takes great notes. She was taught how. And until this year she was allowed to use those notes during tests because, as you said, there is no way to make her retain certain things and it's not her fault. At a job, she can refer to notes. I see no reason not to let her during tests. They know and acknowledge that she is doing her best.

    I thought of online schooling for her as they have some really good programs, but she wants to be able to play sports (and you can't do that if you are not a student who actually physically goes to school) and she has a ton of friends and is very social. Homeschooling is not on the table for her. I asked her about it and got a big "NO, you CAN'T." I respect that.

    We have gone for the jugular with mediation. They are already scrambling to get a new IEP for her. Frankly, if they allow her notes for tests, I will be happy to drop the mediation, but that's up to them. The first thing they told us is, "Well, it takes a LONG TIME to start the testing process again and SHE MAY NOT QUALIFY..." Well, she wouldn't, if all they went by is grade level scores (although she IS three years behind in reading). The mediator told us for ask for testing that addresses her memory issues, so we did. That would mean they'd have to hire somebody outside of the school, but the mediator told us to do exactly that. She's really cool and, while I hope we don't really have to go to mediation, if we do have to go, I hope she is the mediator. She seemed VERY pro-chlld. Our Dept. of Public Education lauds over all the school districts in the state and no school district wants to be on their bad side or look uncooperative.

    If our school was large, I think I would be a bit more tolerant of time frames, but there are about 40 children in each grade and enough staff to take care of them. I am hoping for the best and trying not to stress out too badly.

    Thanks, everyone. Any other thoughts are welcome too.
  11. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    My easy child found that his memory is somewhat impaired due to his anti convulsant drugs he started after his craniotomy.
  12. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    I understand the studying all night and not remembering anything. For me it is spelling. If you give me 10 words I don't know how to spell (from 5 to 8 letters long) and tell me to learn them. I will write each one down 50 time as setting three setting a day. At the end of one week I will have written each word down over a 1000 times. Yet when tested I am lucky if I remember 50%. I can remember every every thing else, just not spelling (well and directions to places). One therapist called it "like water on a ducks back, just beads up and rolls off".

    Now I can remember other things in my live, and (as you can tell because you are reading something I wrote) I have learned a way around it. For example: Where I can not remember how to spell a word, or write the word down with a pencil, when I type the word I will frequently type them correctly. It seems the finger memory comes from a different place in my brain, and I can remember things kinetically.

    So I believe she probably can learn, but you need to find out what modality works for her. visual, audio, kinetically, Can she remember more when she sings her notes? Write them on the board with long strokes of her arms? Studies pictures of the subject? For me the only way to learn how to spell a new word is to study them phonemically. I had trouble with the word "Satellite", I kept writing "Satilight". I had to make three "rules" for myself. 1) the second vowel is an "short e sound not a short i". 2) the long i sound dose not use that dam "igh" spelling it is the "i contestant e" one. 3) two "l"s. By thinking about the rules first I can then reconstruct the spelling. After reconstructing the spelling about ten times, I can then start spelling it correctly. This process is a lot of work but works better then writing it down 1000 times and using drill cards all night, which never worked.

    I can't give you her procedure, as it will be totally different, but I am sure there is one. And you already know that what she needs (and is legally entitled to) is the Special Education services. I have no good advice for pursuing it. http://www.wrightslaw.com/ has good advice on how to obtain Special Education services.
  13. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I was going to say that poor memory is a hallmark of ADD or ADHD. It does get better with age as they learn their own coping skills. Jamie was horrible with remembering things as a kid but now he does fine with work. He still can be forgetful about some stuff that isnt important to him but if it is important or interesting to him, he remembers things very well now.
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much, Janet and Fran.
    Daughter is only on Concerta, nothing else.
    And, Janet, I have a terrible short term memory myself, but I compensate by writing notes all over the house...lol. I am hoping that the SD doesn't really give us a hard time because they like daughter and know she tries. It's the stupid laws that drive me nuts. And N. would do even worse if I pulled her and put her in private school...in Wisconsin private schools don't have to take Special Education kids or do interventions and most don't have the right staff for that.
    I think my daughter can learn. There are things she does quite well, like cutting hair, matching clothes, and anything physical. But I'm not sure that her memory will ever be good and I don't want her to flunk classes when she is legitimately trying her best to get good grades.
    I guess it's a waiting game now.
  15. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member

    Hi MWM,

    I've been thinking about you -- been to busy to respond. Both my boys struggle with poor short-term memory. I was going to give you a good link to EF's but I see you've already ready about them. Well I'll give it to you anyway -- it's in the Chandler papers which is a little gold mine as you probably remember, and he also suggests accommodations for each EF deficit. Does your daughter have previous neuropsychologist testing results? The short-term memory issues might have shown up there.


    I can't find difficult child's neuropsychologist right now (it's in his files I'm sure) which indicated the short term memory problems but it did list specific accommodations, and multiple choice testing was one of them. Check on Wrightslaw to see what the options are -- I love browsing that site -- always find something new and empowering. Have you read over IDEA lately? There has to be some language in there which will make the decision for the school -- ie., it's Federal Law.

    Oops I was just re-reading this thread and I see Wrightslaw was already mentioned. I knew that. My short-term memory is not great.

  16. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    She's having another neuropsychologist evaluation with a place that is better than the one she got her other one at just as soon as she can get in. I'm not how far out the waiting list is, but the day she can go, she's there. I appreciate all I can learn about EF.
  17. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member