Orton-Gillingham Training

My Child is Always Forgetful! What Can I Do to Help Him?

There are things you can do to help children with ADD or ADHD improve their working memory. If your child forgets to hand in completed homework, do chores, or bring home permission slips, try these strategies for improving working memory in kids with ADHD.


1. Get emotional


Try introducing a topic by sharing a story with a character or circumstance that your student can relate to. When your child is struggling to recall details from the text, remind him of a story or movie or video he read or watched in which a dog or a boy finds his way back home against tough odds. If you can’t think of a pertinent story, help a student recall a time when he stuck with a hard task and completed it. Those good feelings can motivate and engage a student as he learns new material.


2. Get creative


Novelty helps a child with ADHD remember information. Introduce a topic with a brief demonstration, using real objects or hands-on activities to attract the student’s attention. Write words on a blank piece of paper, so they can be seen through the bubbles on bubble wrap. Give the student 30 seconds to read as many words as she can, popping each bubble as she goes.


3. Create mnemonics


These memory aids and strategies improve memorization. Here are my favorites:




Use the first letter of each word in a sequence to improve your child’s recall: Use COW to remember the western coastal states of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Acrostics help a child remember by using phrases starting with the first letter of each item to be recalled. In science you can use the phrase Kings Play Chess On Finely Ground Sand to recall Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. For the algebraic order of operations in math, use Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction). In music, to remember the treble clef line notes from bottom to top, use Every Good Boy Does Fine (EGBDF). For geography, Never Eat Soggy Waffles (North, East, South, West) will sharpen a child’s map skills. Acrostics let you know that you have remembered all of the items on a list.


Number-rhyme mnemonics


Select objects that rhyme with the numbers 1-10. Example: 1 = sun, 2 = shoe, 3 = tree, and so on. To learn new information, a student visualizes the number rhyme interacting with the items to memorize. Example: The child needs to go to the bedroom and bring back three things: a pencil, a sweatshirt, and a library book. A student can picture a pencil catching fire from the sun, pulling a sweatshirt out of a shoe, and climbing a tree to retrieve a library book.


4. Get moving


Physical activity reduces stress and increases energy, and it can help information cross the mid-line of the brain, so that it is shared by both brain hemispheres. This increases the likelihood that information will shift from short- to long-term memory.

The ADHD brain loves variety, brevity, and novelty. After you teach the strategies above to your child, have her come up with her own. While these memory tips and tricks support weak working memory and improve recall, there are always new ones to try. Work with your child to find them.

By using these strategies, you are working with your child’s strengths!