The Elusive Nature of Memory for Individuals with Autism

Some Have Amazing Recall While Others Struggle

Simply put, memory is the ability to encode, store and retrieve information. There are generally four types of memory: working memory, sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory (which includes autobiographical memory). Memory helps people function in their daily lives and relate to others. However, many children on the spectrum experience difficulties with memory. And oddly, a large portion of  higher-functioning children with autism have an uncanny ability to recall personal events from a very young age. A new article in Autism Parenting Magazine examines two different types of memory that seem to be most affected in individuals with autism. For those who struggle with recall, it is their working memory that most often shows deficits. Working memory is the ability to handle and process information without losing track of what you are doing. This type of memory is highly tied to executive functioning skills, which are difficult for people with autism. For high-functioning individuals who have remarkable memory skills, their strengths lie in autobiographical memory which means that they can recall events from personal experiences. To help children struggling with memory issues, the article gave several suggestions including using visual aids in order to keep on task. The article also recommended not overcomplicating lessons, tasks or stories and advocated for using repetitive language. The final recommendation was to play memory games like Sudoku, Match the Cards, What’s Missing and I Went Shopping.

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