Brain Injury - Memory Difficulties

Brain Injury - Memory Difficulties

Children can have problems holding information in memory after they have had a brain injury or an illness that affects the brain. Find out what you can do to help.

Key points to remember about memory difficulties after brain injury

This page is part of a whole section on brain injury.

  • problems holding information in memory is a common complaint in children who have had a brain injury (particularly a more serious injury) or illness
  • there are several ways you can help
  • provide a regular routine to help your child remember what they have to do
  • encourage your child to write things down or use a digital organiser to help them remember
  • provide prompts and reminders

What causes memory difficulties after a brain injury or illness?

Problems holding information in memory is a common complaint in children who have had a brain injury (particularly a more serious injury) or an illness that affects the brain.

If your child has a medical condition that affects the brain (such as epilepsy), they can also experience difficulties with memory.

The reason and pattern for memory difficulties depend on the type of injury or illness and how serious it is.

What might I notice if my child has memory difficulties after brain injury?

  • difficulty remembering instructions, explanations, or details of conversations
  • needing to go over things or practice new skills many times to remember them
  • not being able to recall things that they have previously learned
  • problems remembering things that have happened
  • problems remembering to do future tasks (such as remembering to give parents a form to sign for a school trip or to attend a scheduled activity)
  • frequently losing belongings or forgetting where things have been put down
  • problems learning their way around and/or remembering how to get somewhere (such as taking a long time to learn their way around at a new school)

What can I do to help my child with memory difficulties after brain injury?

Follow a regular routine that helps with memory

Provide a regular routine, so your child doesn't have to rely on their memory as much.

Give prompts and reminders to help with remembering things

A calendarPrompt your child to write down messages and reminders (especially for teens).

Use a wall calendar, chart, or small whiteboard for reminders of daily or weekly scheduled activities. Remind them to check this.

Use organisers

A diaryEncourage your child to use a digital organiser, paper diary, or notebook to help them remember important events or tasks (such as taking medicine). They can take this between home and school. Prompt them to add messages, alarms, and reminders and to check them. Younger children will need more support with this.

Make checklists

A checklistChecklists can help your child remember what they need for the day - such as books and equipment they need to take to school. You can use pictures on a chart on their bedroom door. You can also use written or digital checklists which they can then tick off. You may still need to remind your child to check the list when leaving the house and update it when they need to.

What can school do to help my child with memory difficulties?

You can talk with your child's teacher about your child's difficulties and show them this website with things they can do to help.

Follow a regular routine that helps with memory

Teachers should have a regular routine, so your child doesn't have to rely on their memory as much. Children with memory difficulties need more time to prepare for changes in routine.

Give prompts and reminders to help with remembering things

Teachers can repeat instructions and support your child to put down a step by step guide in writing or as picture cues (which can also go on the board in the classroom) to help them remember what they have to do.

Teachers can set up a buddy system to help them find their way around the school.

Encourage them to use organisers

Teachers can encourage and support your child to use a digital organiser, paper diary or reminder notebook to help recall important events or tasks. They can take this between home and school. They may need prompting to add messages, alarms and reminders and to check them. Younger children will need more support with this.

Reduce workload

Teachers can reduce the amount of schoolwork your child has to remember.

If your child is at primary school, this can mean focusing the curriculum on core areas such as literacy and numeracy.

If your child is at high school, this can mean removing a subject or subjects from their timetable. They can then use free periods for, revision or to complete homework.

Allow for extra revision opportunities

Teachers can provide opportunities for extra revision, repetition and practice to help consolidate new learning.

A paper and tick markProvide printouts and summaries

Teachers can provide printouts or a summary of key points for your child (especially for teens). They can then refer to these later, so they don't have to rely on their memory.

A cameraLet them take photos and videos

Teachers can allow your child to photograph key concepts from the board or textbooks. They could also allow your child to record or video instructions or explanations to listen to them again later.

Try using different methods to show information

A diagram

If your child has difficulties remembering spoken things, teachers can try using pictures or diagrams.

If they have problems remembering things visually, teachers can support them to write down verbal explanations.

Give prompts and reminders to help with remembering things

2 people talking

If your child is struggling with an answer, teachers could try giving them multiple choice options instead of just giving them the answer straightaway.

Consider changing assessments

If appropriate, teachers can try modifying their school programme to focus more on internal assignments rather than external exams.

The content on this page has been developed and approved by the Paediatric Rehabilitation Team and the Clinical Neuropsychology Team, Consult Liaison, Starship Child Health.

This page last reviewed 23 November 2019.
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