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10 CEUs Treating Locking In & Blocking Out: ADHD Adults

Section 3
Working Memory

Question 3 | Test | Table of Contents | ADHD CEU Courses
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed the three aspects of the problems with intense feelings and distorted senses that ADHD adults face. These three aspects were an Intense Emotional Roller Coaster, the Bottomless Pit of Needs and Desires, and the Time Tyrant.

On this track, we will discuss the Five Steps of Memory. I have found that the Five Steps of Memory are Acquisition, Registration, Storage, Access, and Transfer. Sound interesting? Let’s look at how this information helped Derek.

Derek, age 35 diagnosed with ADHD, had always had problems remembering things. But, Derek felt that the problem he had with remembering might have gotten out of control more recently. Derek stated, "When I was younger, my friends used to joke about me having Alzheimer’s disease because I forgot things so often. Last week, though, was probably the worst thing I’ve ever forgotten. My wife’s brother-in-law called to say that her sister had died. My wife wasn’t home, so I took the call. By the time she got back, I had forgotten that he even called. Two days later, I remembered the message. I had to figure out a way to tell my wife that, by the way, your sister died a couple of days ago."

Derek sighed, and continued, "I wish I understood why everyone else’s memory works. That part of my brain just seems to be missing sometimes."

I explained to Derek that memory is a process, not a part of the brain. I stated, "ADHD symptoms usually impact the process of memory. Would you like to hear how?" Derek nodded and stated, "My wife has another sister and a brother. I can’t afford to make a blunder like that again."

5-Step Memory Process

Step # 1 - Acquisition
I stated to Derek, "There are five steps in the memory process. The first step is Acquisition." As you know, the acquisition step is not just paying attention to incoming information, but also the preliminary decision to accept and store that information. I explained to Derek, "For many adults with ADHD, your selective attention deficits make it difficult to even acquire information, let alone deciding to accept and store the information."

Step # 2 - Registration
The second step I explained to Derek is Registration. I stated, "In the registration step, you must consciously make an effort to secure the information in you memory for recall later." Obviously, superficially registering the data will make it difficult for the ADHD adult to retrieve later. I explained to Derek that there are two parts to registration, coding and rehearsal. I stated, "Coding is basically a system of sorting and filing information. Rehearsal is the process of practicing and repeating information until it is anchored in your memory. Rehearsal is sometimes hard for adults with ADHD because it requires the tedious act of repetition."

Step # 3 - Storage
After acquisition and registration, the third step of memory is Storage. As you know, there are four storage systems for memory. I explained these to Derek, stating "The first storage system, instant recall, has the shortest duration." I then told him that the second storage system is an active working memory.

I explained, "Your active working memory works like a computer. While you work on a computer, what’s on the screen is held in temporary storage. If the computer overloads before you save your work in a permanent space, you lose that work. Similar to the computer, your active working memory can shut down if you overload it."

After instant recall and active working memory, I explained to Derek that the third storage system is short term memory. As you know, short term memory functions as a temporary storage and is limited with a maximum of five seconds or seven items. Finally, I explained to Derek the fourth storage system for memory, long term memory. I stated, "Your long term memory is your permanent, seemingly unlimited storehouse."

Step # 4 - Access
After I finished explaining the types of storage to Derek, I told him about the fourth step of memory, Access. As you know, access is the process of recalling stored information through recognition or retrieval memory. I stated to Derek, "Recognition relies on familiarity to refresh the memories of superficially learned data. This is the kind of memory usually used when kids take multiple choice tests in school." Derek asked, "Does that mean that retrieval is the kind or memory students use for essay tests?" I nodded and stated, "Retrieval requires accurate recall, and relies on data you have firmly fixed in your memory."

Step # 5 - Transfer
Finally, I explained to Derek that the fifth step of memory is transfer. I stated, "Transfer is the process of rearranging individual pieces of data to form new knowledge. It can be combining fragmented pieces into a larger whole, applying data from one application to another, or generalizing the common threads between seemingly unrelated ideas."

Derek nodded and stated, "OK, I guess that all makes sense. I can even see why I might have more memory problems than other people. But how do I get better at remembering things? I mean, if I get a phone call tomorrow that my wife’s other sister died, what do I do?"

"Record to Remember" Technique
I explained to Derek that a simple way to remember important things is the "Record to Remember" technique. I stated, "To do the ‘Record to Remember’ technique, simply record the important things you need to remember. One way that other clients have told me is especially successful is an actual recording. If you can get a small recording device, just talk into it when you have something important to remember, like telling your wife that her sister passed away. Make a habit of listening to your recorded messages daily."

Do you have a client, like Jerry, whose ADHD causes him to forget important things? Would your Jerry benefit from hearing about the five steps of memory or the "Record to Remember" technique? If so, would you consider replaying this track before your next session with your ADHD client?

On this track, we have discussed the five steps of memory. The five steps of memory are Acquisition, Registration, Storage, Access, and Transfer.

On the next track, we will discuss the ADHD adult’s two types of controlling methods of coping with the ADHD diagnosis. These two types of controlling methods of coping are Manipulation and Blaming.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Alderson, R. M., Hudec, K. L., Patros, C. H. G., & Kasper, L. J. (2013). Working memory deficits in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): An examination of central executive and storage/rehearsal processes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122(2), 532–541.

Becker, S. P., Mossing, K. W., Zoromski, A. K., Vaughn, A. J., Epstein, J. N., Tamm, L., & Burns, G. L. (2020). Assessing sluggish cognitive tempo and ADHD inattention in elementary students: Empirical differentiation, invariance across sex and grade, and measurement precision. Psychological Assessment. Advance online publication.

Kofler, M. J., Singh, L. J., Soto, E. F., Chan, E. S. M., Miller, C. E., Harmon, S. L., & Spiegel, J. A. (2020). Working memory and short-term memory deficits in ADHD: A bifactor modeling approach. Neuropsychology, 34(6), 686–698.

Kofler, M. J., Soto, E. F., Fosco, W. D., Irwin, L. N., Wells, E. L., & Sarver, D. E. (2020). Working memory and information processing in ADHD: Evidence for directionality of effects. Neuropsychology, 34(2), 127–143.

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