That may be funny but it's no joke when your child struggles with following instructions. Am I right?
Hi, I’m Samantha from Learning Success and I made this video to help you understand why your child might be having trouble following instructions. There are a few possible reasons so let’s narrow those down. And what they may mean for your child.
These problems affect a lot of children. We’d like to help them. Would you help us do that by clicking the like button and subscribing if you haven’t already. That helps us get this to more parents so they can help their children too.
The first thing to talk about is working memory. Following instructions requires good working memory skills. But what is working memory?
People talk about working memory as if it’s one thing. It’s not. Working memory is actually made up of several types of memory. Those are Visual memory, auditory memory, kinesthetic memory, and visual-spatial memory. All of these combine to form working memory.
But there’s actually more to it than that. You see, when we try to remember something we have a choice of how to remember it. Which type of memory will we use? Some people will try to use just auditory memory. Others will use just visual spatial memory. But those with the best working memory skills will use all of the types of memory together. That’s the best strategy. That’s the one you want to help your child move toward.
You can help your child improve their working memory. Brains can improve at any age, but the earlier you start, the easier it is. Young brains naturally have neuroplasticity. As you get older you have to work a little harder at it to make changes in your brain. You still can, it just takes more effort. So start as soon as possible.
Working memory is actually made up of visual memory, auditory memory, kinesthetic memory, and visual-spatial memory. If you help your child build each of those up, then you are also building up working memory. We call those the cognitive micro-skills and there is a link in the description to more info on those.
The next thing to do is to get all of those cognitive micro-skills working together better. Let me give you an example of how that works. In this example we will use auditory memory and visual memory.
Working Memory Is A combination Of Different Types of Memory
Try this out for yourself. Try to remember the following sequence.
Now, how did you do it? Did you say the numbers in your head?
Or did you see the numbers in your head?
In other words, did you use auditory memory or visual memory
Okay, now try this one
Maybe a little harder?
If you tried to use auditory memory for that one, it was probably very difficult.
That's because the capitals and lower case letters doubled the amount of information. The same number of symbols but far more information. Auditory memory doesn’t work very well for that.
Visual memory, seeing the picture of them in your head, is a better choice.
Or better yet, you would use both together.
There are different types of dyslexics. Some dyslexics have difficulty with auditory cognitive skills. Some have problems with visual cognitive skills. I explain that in our video on types of dyslexia. So if you haven’t already seen that video then check it out after watching this video.
Different Types of Memory
Each type of memory is better for different types of remembering
Auditory memory is very good for sequencing. Visual memory is better for storing more information. Someone with really good working memory would use them together. To get the advantages of both. And the great thing is that it is a skill that can be learned. Once that skill becomes natural it makes all types of learning so much easier. It gives a child a huge advantage. That skill, plus many others, can be taught with the Learning Success System.
So in the example, someone with very good working memory might store the sequence in auditory memory and the capitalization in visual memory.
When these two forms of memory are used together it is quite powerful.
But there’s much more, so let's dive in deeper.
The sequencing exercise I just gave you is a simple one. Instructions are generally more complex than that. Fortunately, we have an even more powerful form of memory for storing lots of information. The most powerful form of memory is actually Visual-spatial memory.
Visual-spatial memory happens mostly in the hippocampus. A small part of the brain that they say looks like a seahorse. Hippocampus comes from an ancient Greek word that means seahorse. I’m not so sure I think it looks like a seahorse. Do you? Let me know in the comments.
One amazing thing about the hippocampus is that it can grow larger. It used to be that scientists didn’t believe that brains could grow new cells. Turns out they actually can. It’s called neurogenesis. Because scientists thought brains couldn’t change, that made them think that we were just stuck with whatever brain we were born with. Fortunately, science has moved forward and that old idea has been proven wrong. We can actually change and develop our brains for our entire lives. We can improve our brains. And since we can, we should. Don’t you think?
Thinking that brains could not change was a terrible thing. So many people just gave up on themselves because of that. Every day we hear from people that were told that they were just stupid. They lived their lives thinking that. That’s so tragic. And that’s why we try to spread the word about neuroplasticity because it changes lives so dramatically. We don’t want today's kids to fall through the cracks of education like so many have in the past.
Different Types of Memory Are Better For Remembering Different Things
Here’s a weird fact. London taxi drivers actually have bigger hippocampi. That’s because they have to remember how to get around on all of the streets of London. And there are a lot of streets. They actually get tested on it to become drivers. Their hippocampi actually grow as they learn the layout of London.
Now that might all be changing now with navigation and Uber, but you get the point right? If they can grow their brains, so can you. And so can your child.
Here’s another weird fact. The amygdala shrinks as the hippocampi grow. That’s important because the amygdala is where our stress response comes from. When your child throws a tantrum that's the amygdala talking. Stress is very common in dyslexic children because a lot of dyslexics have lost confidence and self-esteem. When a child loses confidence and self-esteem they become very stressed out and that causes their emotions to get out of control sometimes. If that's your child, then you might want to watch our full documentary on emotions in children. It’s called the overly emotional child
But back to the hippocampus. Developing the hippocampus has a lot of benefits. Not only does a bigger hippocampus mean better visual-spatial memory but also fewer tantrums. Kinda cool huh?
Visual-spatial memory is a very powerful tool for remembering instructions. It's also what we use when we use logic, when we troubleshoot, or when we design and create things. Visual-spatial thinking is a superpower. And developing it helps you learn and think better.
Human brains are wired to be visual-spatial first. Think about it. If you see something, you see it in a position in space. If you feel something you feel it in a position on your body. If you hear something you hear it in a position in space. The spatial is where we mentally combine all of our senses. And the spatial is where we formulate plans and remember instructions. If we try to do these things only using other forms of memory it will be extremely challenging.
The ancient Romans knew this well. And they used the tool of visual-spatial memory in astounding ways.
Have you ever wondered how they memorized the long speeches they were famous for? Want to know how they did it? Well, they had an amazing trick that used visual-spatial memory.
They didn’t try to remember the words of the speech. That would have been impossible for most. Instead, they used a technique called the memory palace. Here’s how it works.
When practicing their speech they visualized themselves walking through a palace. Every place on the path through the palace represented a key point in the speech. They associated the key points with places.
As they spoke, they would imagine themselves walking through the palace. As they finished each key point they imagined walking to the next place in the palace. As they mentally got to each place in the palace they were able to remember the part of the speech assigned to that place.
Have you ever said the phrase, “In the first place…” Well now you know where it comes from. The ancient Romans memory palace technique.
Our core and most powerful thinking is visual-spatial. We are wired for it. Even our language is spatial. Listen to language closely and you’ll recognize this. We associate almost everything with direction. Up, down, forward, back. If we are feeling good we are feeling up. If we are feeling bad we say we are feeling down. We “climb the ladder of success” or are at “the peak of our career”. A Scoundrel may do a low-down trick. And you might not believe they could stoop so low. Everything is spatial. It’s how our mind works. It’s how we speak. It’s how we perceive. And that’s why developing our spatial senses such as proprioception have such an amazing effect on our brain.
Let’s go over another example so we can put this all together
Lets say you were given the following instructions: "Go to the store and get bread, mayonnaise, a can of tuna, pickles, lettuce, and milk"
You might tromp off to the store repeating that list over and over in your head. Or you might just visualize a nice tuna fish sandwich lunch and know to get everything for that.
Which of those would be easier?
When you use the first tactic, remembering the list. You are probably using auditory memory. When you use the second you might use a combination of visual-spatial and kinesthetic. You see yourself sitting down to a nice lunch and you might even think about how it tastes. Taste memory is called gustatory memory. Also a powerful form of memory. It’s not hard to remember what a German chocolate cake tastes like,right? Yummmm!
So you had a choice in how to remember the instructions. You could store two pieces of information, the store and lunch. Or seven pieces of information. The list.
You also have a third choice. You could visualize yourself taking each item off the shelf. A visual-spatial journey. And that’s a very powerful method too.
So we’ve learned that there are many ways to remember things. When we talk about working memory, we know it's not just one simple thing. It’s the combination of many types of memory. If you build up each of those components, overall working memory improves. And so does the ability to follow instructions. Or think logically. Or be creative. Or learn new things.
You can literally build your own brain. And you can help your child build theirs.
And since we now know it's possible, isn’t it something everyone should do?
Difficulty in following directions is a symptom. It’s a sign that something else needs work. Dyslexics may have this difficulty because of a difficulty in auditory memory, or visual memory, or visual-spatial memory. But it’s not just dyslexics. This is true for everyone. And everyone can improve.
That’s why we built the Learning Success System. To help people improve in these skills. If your child is having difficulty following instructions. Or having difficulty in anything learning related. Then get them started on the Learning Success System. Right now we are offering a free trial.
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