Ever ask your child a question they know the answer to and you get a blank stare?

Happens to me all the time!

Or the name of a restaurant is on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t seem to say it?

Yup, me too!

Two parts of our memory are working in these scenarios. Long Term Retrieval and Long Term Memory.

Long Term Memory is anything you remember for a few days or your life time. It can basically be viewed as a “file cabinet” in your brain where you can store similar information for easier categorizing and retrieving. Your brain can help to create multiple pathways to information you have stored.

For example, let’s think about dinosaurs. A child may be able to access the information they already know about dinosaurs by remembering a trip you took as a family to the history museum. They’d also be able to recall information by thinking about a camp art activity they did last summer, or something they learned when a friend brought their favorite dinosaur book to Show and Tell last year.

Long Term Retrieval is the ability to actually recall this information. Some people have a really hard time recalling information. They know it – it’s in there – they just can’t get to it. For children, this can be especially problematic at school, during tests or when they are called on in class to tell what they learned last week in the science lab. Students with memory problems often have difficulty categorizing similar experiences together; their “file cabinets” are messy and out of order, so it takes longer to sort through and find the information.

To help support retrieval, we can work to “prime the pump”, so to speak, by “jogging” your child’s memory with phrases such as, “Remember when we were at Grandma’s and we did such and such?” Then you can ask your child to recall whatever that such and such was. (maybe steps needed to bake cookies or something).

Additionally, gaining your child’s attention prior to asking a question can be an easy fix. I know if I say my child’s name before I start asking them something, they are more likely to respond…or at least look in my direction!

What are some things you do, for yourself or your child, to help with Long Term Retrieval?

–Lindsey Binford, M. Ed

Educational Diagnostician

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