Home » Chapter 5: The FASD Student & Learning Issues » Effective Strategies for Information-Processing & Memory Difficulties

Effective Strategies for Information-Processing & Memory Difficulties

If somebody explains it clearly…like very outlined and like one step at a time…without skipping
steps, making sure I understand each step, then I can put it all together in my mind.
(Copeland and Rutman, 1996)

Most of the learning that takes place in school is memory-based. FASD students have reported they are fearful of their memory “blanks” and frustrated that they cannot rely on their memories. Step-by-step learning, repetition, and using memory aids/strategies have been successful in facilitating learning with these students.

General Strategies to Assist with Information-processing and Memory Deficits
Noncompliant behavior may be interpreted as defiant and willful misconduct when, in fact, it may be a response to difficulty understanding and processing information. There are three general issues to keep in mind:

These students learn at a slower pace.

  • Allow extra classroom time to process information
  • Allow extra time for tests
  • Teach students how to “self-talk”
  • Helps them problem solve
  • Helps them remember routines

Perseveration (repeating words/actions) signifies student overload

  • Decrease information
  • Decrease stimulation

Difficulty generalizing

  • Identify when and how to generalize a learned skill given a new situation

One student regularly had difficulty in the cafeteria. He was suspended numerous occasions
for breaking the cafeteria rules. When he was asked to tell someone the rules, he could state
them. When he was asked to demonstrate he understood them, he became teary-eyed.
He did not know where to sit or what to do with his tray.

The counselor helped him role-play different cafeteria scenarios and showed him where to sit
and where to get his tray. Then, she took photos of him doing things the correct way in the
cafeteria so he would have them as a reference.
(Kleinfeld, Morse, and Wescott, 2000)

Use a Step-by-step Approach and Repetition of Skills

Use task analysis and break skills into small components

  • Step-by-step approachpencil
  • Teach steps in the same sequence
  • Practice skills
  • Re-teach skills
  • Overlearn skills
  • Reinforce concepts
  • Revisit skills throughout the year
  • Practice, practice, practice!

Temporal concepts are difficult for most FASD students; this is reflected in the confusion that surrounds sequencing of events. FASD students benefit from making the abstract process of sequencing as concrete and visual as possible.

Practice Sequencing Strategies

  • Create linear timelines
  • Create linear calendars
  • Create a photo story; use photographs showing each step
  • Use songs with actions
  • Practice taking turns; use a “talking stick” that is passed around a circle when it’s the speaker’s turn to speak

Be aware that sequences of information, such as the alphabet, zip codes, phone numbers, and
combination locks may be a problem. They should be written down.

Teach Memory Strategies

Most FASD students have a strong long-term memory. Short-term memory is weaker.

  • Make a list
  • Use a calendar
  • Create a daily schedule including class subjects and times
  • Use highlighters
  • Use mnemonic devices

Use Memory Aids

  • Allow the students to use open books or notes on tests
  • Provide examples of finished projects

Use a Multi-sensory Approach

Use a multi-sensory approach to teaching skills. Creating multiple pathways to learning is themost effective way for FASD students to learn. Learning occurs more easily when words arelinked to an action, paired with music or a rhythm. This can help students anchor information input and trigger or cue information retrieval.

  • Pair oral information with visual cues
  • Teach concepts through art, music, and drama
  • Involve as many senses as possible
  • Use an activity-based curriculum—learning by doing provides a stronger base to remember
  • Relate learning to student’s life experiencesFor details using visual information, a multi-sensory approach, and an activity-based learning refer to Chapter 4 – Variety.

Use Technology Tools

  • Tape recordings allow a student to listen to information many times (i.e., books on tape)
  • Videos provide visual and auditory input
  • Computers enable visual and auditory interaction

Keep Language Simple

Traditional verbal classroom presentations are challenging to FASD students. Keeping language simple and brief is helpful. For details on using brief and simple language, please refer to Chapter 4.

  • Provide instructions one-at-a-time
  • Have student demonstrate that he/she understands the directions (repeating the information back does not necessarily demonstrate understanding)
  • Keep concepts concrete and provide examples
  • Use vocabulary familiar to students