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How to support children with Visual Memory difficulties

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Visual memory is a feature of our visual perception skills and allows a child to recall the characteristics of an object or form. It involves both visual and cognitive functions and enables children to identify and remember shapes, letters, words, and patterns. Children with visual memory difficulties may present with language and literacy problems as they struggle to remember the correct orientation of letters, to learn sight words, or adequately comprehend the meaning of written pieces. Mathematics development can be affected by their difficulties with recalling patterns, shapes and designs as basic skills for numeracy, geometry and algebra. Content subjects involving diagrams, graphs, timelines and sequences can also be affected. 

Identifying if a child has difficulties with visual memory can be tricky as they often develop compensation strategies to help themselves complete tasks. Actions like whispering aloud as they read to give themselves auditory cues, and relying on multi-sensory strategies for learning like using rhymes or music to remember sequences are often present. These children may have no difficulty with the development of their logic and can use verbal skills to explain themselves far better than written or diagrammatic portrayal. 

Using strategies in the way that you teach can support children with difficulties with visual memory. These are a few favourites: 

  • Providing step-by-step instructions and asking the child to repeat them back to you before starting a task
  • Creating as hands-on a learning experience as possible so that the child can use other sensory pathways to support remembering things with visual memory – think actions words and games like Simon Says for learning shapes (arms up in a point like a triangle)
  • Teach mnemonics or acronyms to support visual memory (Betty eats cakes and uncle sells eggs spells because)
  • The more repetition and frequency you have in learning, the more chance the child will have of remembering the content – use word flashcards {insert hyperlink item: 36133}  around your classroom, particularly for sight words, to reinforce your teaching 

Having an arsenal of activities to develop visual memory in your classroom can be very useful in helping to support these children. If you have a range of activities on hand, you can bring them out when children have completed their work or are having less formal learning; decreasing the impact on actual teaching and lesson time. 

  • Simple memory games are a great starting point if age appropriate. These can be played with small groups of children or with children individually and help a child remember not only the features of the pictures on cards but also the positioning of their placement.
  • Other card games like Find the Same, Look for the Contour and Complete can work on developing short term visual memory for the slightly older child. 
  • When you are available to facilitate the learning with the child or small group of children you can play object recall games. This is when you show two objects, have the child close his or her eyes, remove one object, and then ask the child to identify the removed object. As they show success you gradually increase the number of objects used. Eventually you may be able to remove all items shown and the child work towards being able to recall them all. 
  • Showing the child a design or drawing a design for a child and then removing it and getting them to draw the design from memory is a similar game but includes the child being challenged to give a visual response. You could use shape flashcards for this or make it slightly more difficult by using pattern boards
  • Once children are able to remember individual objects you can start working on their visual sequential memory. This is when they need to recall a sequence of shapes, numbers of letters. Starting with items that they can name and which are easily identifiable to them, will help with grading the activity for success. Common classroom items that you may have on hand which you can use to do this are: beads with work cards, lacing shapes or pairing screws with cards. For an older child you may find something like a set of Geo Links more useful as it is more age appropriate and sets slightly more of a challenge for the child. 

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