Executive Functions: Working Memory

Working memory refers to the ability to recall small pieces of information (e.g. remembering a recipe) for a short time, while using it in order to accomplish a task. 

People with ADHD or ASD tend to have poor working memory so the information doesn’t stay once its recalled. 

So the moment their attention shifts from remembering to doing, the information is lost.

In this section we’ll discuss strategies for addressing this.

Why does it often take someone with ADHD longer to learn something others may learn more quickly?

I’ll leave the specifics to the neuroscientists but I have a way of explaining how it feels that may help you give yourself more grace when it happens.
 
There are two sides to every coin, yes? That goes for resilience as well. The capacity to regain functionality after an experience of adversity that challenges your ability to cope.
 
The ideal experience of resilience is when you bounce forward. Stronger and wiser because of the adversity and how you choose to view it.
 
The other side of the resilience coin is a brain that wants to snap back to where it started before the adversity took place.
 
Remember that “adversity” can simply mean difficulty. Like learning something new, remembering an appointment, etc.
 
The ADHD brain can often be unwelcoming to changes because incorporating them into the whole can be confusing.
 
When your brain feels like a junk drawer it’s difficult to know where to put things. So you try to avoid situations that require you to do so.
 
You stay with what you know instead, where it’s comfortable.
 
So when you’re asked to remember something and your brain isn’t sure how it’ll snap back to the point at which it didn’t know that thing and we call it forgetting.
 
We can learn how to keep your desk organized then forget to keep it up.
 
Why? Because your brain snaps back to where it was before you thought cleaning the desk was important.
 
If your brain struggles with a particular executive function, it’ll tune out anything requiring the use of that function – like cleaning up the kitchen.
 
It isn’t willful disregard, it’s symptomatic of a brain wired to stay in its lane to avoid confusion or overwhelm.
 
I have my morning routine spelled out on my calendar because even after all these years of doing essentially the same thing, I still can forget easily because my brain doesn’t want to bounce forward to make room to remember it.
 
It wants to bounce back to its original state. Make sense?
 
You aren’t dumb or broken because your brain works this way. Though impatience from any source can make it easy to forget this.
 
You’re a ship that spends more time tied to the dock than at sea. That’s not what ships are for.
 
So in the event you decide to venture out and lose sight of the shore, make sure you bring someone with a good sense of direction.
 
Their strength is in exploring the new, yours is in knowing how to get back home.
 
Knowing your brain does this goes a long way to understanding it as a fact instead of a failure.
 
It’s a fact your brain prefers it’s default setting. It’s also a fact your brain can stretch for moments at a time (e.g. focus, attention), before it needs to snap back and rest.
 
Allow yourself this. When your brain is stretched, find a way to capture what you want to be able to use later.
 
Make a note, take a picture, record a reminder. Then it remembers what is lost when your brain defaults.
 
Yes it’s exhausting, but it’s the reality.
 
Learn to experience it with greater self compassion and the right tools so you can experience both sides of resilience.
 
Can’t have one without the other after all.
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