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My child is having a hard time retaining information...any ideas on what could help?

User in Las Vegas, NV
March 14, 2015

My son is 8 years old and is having a hard time remembering information/details. At home, we'll ask him to do something and have him repeat what we say to make sure he heard correctly and knows what to do...that hasn't been working. In school, he's having a hard time retaining what he is/has been learning. Things that he has learned in first grade, now in second, still seem new to him. We've tried doing fun activities so that it didn't seem "boring" but that hasn't changed anything. Does anyone have any ideas that could help us out? I'm also a step-parent (also the first time being a parent figure) and has only been in his life for a year, could I be over-reacting? Is this normal?

Answers
User in Columbia, MD
March 14, 2015

My son was the same way at age 8 I thought there was something wrong with him too but you have to know what's going on in his head and find out how he leans so the best way to start is at home write things down such as if you want him to remember to take the garbage out or other chores and have you and your son participate in playing games to make him remember like cards with pictures that works and some times I have to put signs on the door like when he leaves to go to school in the mornings I posted a sign saying please lock the door. He is now 11 going on 12 and has been working for us and make sure your not giving him multiple things to remember one thing at a time until his brain matures at a steady pace be so be patient and make sure every activity is always clear never change up with giving directions sort of like the way you would want to have directions explained to you as the adult. Remember repeat repeat that's the way my son learns and it works for us. Hope this information is helpful!

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User in Los Angeles, CA
March 14, 2015

From experience I can say that all children are different from one another. In a class room environment many children get left behind because the teacher does not have enough time to dedicate one on one tutoring. You can help him by creating flash cards that are color coordinated. If you have him rehearse he will learn what comes after A and B and C but he will not thoroughly understand the meaning of (ABC). It's important to have patience and ask him questions on what makes him comfortable during his learning process. Personally when I tutor my 8 year old nephew I ask him to teach me math the way he understands it. I give him a white board and a dry eraser marker. I noticed this helped him understand steps much better than before. Because he was trying to "teach" me math, instead he was teaching himself without feeling the pressure of getting the correct answer. I hope this helps, and best wishes!

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User in Las Vegas, NV
March 26, 2018

You've said: My son is 8 years old and is having a hard time remembering information/details. At home, we'll ask him to do something and have him repeat what we say to make sure he heard correctly and knows what to do...that hasn't been working. In school, he's having a hard time retaining what he is/has been learning. It sounds like your son became an "employee" rather than your son (from by reading "we'll ask him to do something..........and knows what to do"). Have you taught him by demonstrating or showed him how to do rather than just tell him what to do? We as leaders must teach them how to do them rather than just tell our children what to do all the time. In other words, do with him and create some bond. In school (for retaining information), it is best to write them all down on the note card (3x5 or 4x6) or on the paper (8.5x11) what he learned that day by borrowing notes from anyone in his classroom (classmate or friend) (more than one) (who has high grades) to retain/retrieve all the information he needs to succeed. If those methods don't work, find psychologist to find out to see if there is something else is going on with his brain (sooner the better). At last, let him be free (once in a while) from homework and chores. Let him play!!!

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An idea is relating what he needs to remember to another thing. For example: you have to remember the abbreviated version of pi. So, you chose to go with "3+1=4" or you have to remember the coordination conjunctions, so you chose to go with "FANBOYS". You just take a piece of information and relate it to something to it. Many students use it on tests. Also try getting a whiteboard or a piece of paper and hang it somewhere, write down the things he needs to do at home and have him check the board/paper every day.

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About the memorization of information. I would like to tell you one way. Did you notice that the phone number is usually written through spaces? Because of this habitual perception, we fix numbers in memory in the form of several blocks of information, which allows us to store them longer. This method can be useful for any other data. Also, it's worth paying attention to health - in addition to healthy sleep and food should constantly engage in sports. You can try this technique. If you are studying at home, you can get homework help or find learning tips on such resources.

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Sandra in Briggs, TX
Oct. 24, 2017

I have 6 grown children and the oldest are boys....IMHO boys often have short-term memory problems when given a list of more than 1 task to perform.What will probably work best is a rigid schedule of chores, so he always knows what to expect and what is expected. As for school work, if he attends a mediocre school (most public schools qualify) it is probably quite dull and senseless. Even though you are new to mothering, you probably have some instincts about what's going on...is he being rebellious or just easily distracted? Be patient, and I would suggest that you spend time reading INTERESTING classic books like the Ralph Moody series, or Treasure Island or Deerslayer; take away the computer/electronic gadgets. Those are very detrimental to a child's imagination. Take him with you and encourage him to interact with people of all ages (especially older people who potentially have wisdom and lots of interesting true stories to share!). I wish you and the boy blessed success!

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User in Austin, TX
Oct. 4, 2017

It's hard to know without really knowing much about him, but I will tell you that sometimes, these things are related to how a child metabolizes the food they are eating. If he has difficulty with grains or sugars, for example, this could be an issue affecting the clarity of his thinking. Consider whether he has digestive issues or food allergies. Consider other health symptoms he may exhibit that you never considered could be related, because very often, they actually are. Too often, we feed our kids macaroni and cheese, for example, when as much as they love the taste, they may not do well on gluten and dairy. That's just one example. Very often, if you search on line for a combination of certain health issues and attentional issues he may have, you will find some pretty good clues. Good luck!

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From my own life experiences, a child will often test their new parent. They will play dumb at times. But everything you have mentioned sounds to me like a normal child. I am a step parent, with my stepchildren are grown now, and I have a very good relationship with them

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User in New York, NY
Sept. 21, 2017

I think if you are concerned it is worthwhile to discuss the situation with your child's pediatrician, who can refer you to neuropsychological testing if necessary. Connecting a student with resources early on is important, to help them stay on track for success.

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I think incentives could be a good idea! Candy, toys, an extra hour of tv, etc. I know it's not ideal for many to use these means to get their child to stay focused but I do think that it is becoming more of a norm amongst children as technology advances.

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Cam in Columbus, OH
June 1, 2017

Kids do forget things. A lot. But if its happening enough that you are concerned, then I would suggest taking him to a psychologist to make sure there isn't anything effecting that.

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Some other techniques rather than asking him to repeat is to write it down and then have him re-write it in 3 different colors. Another option is to have him draw an interpretive picture and write a story around the idea that needs retaining.

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Not all children are built to learn the same way. Their are auditory, visual, and tactile learners. Have your son write things down and see if it will help.

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User in Pembroke, MA
Nov. 21, 2016

Aloha! Try the use of a visual schedule to help him remember. Keep the to-do's short - first _____ then ______. Best of luck!

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Hey, Typically, students need to have information reinforced in several different ways in order for them to retain it. It is important to find out his learning style and then deliver material to him in that way. Working one-on-one with a tutor can be helpful for children who are struggling with bridging the gap from one year to the next. I would love to work with you if this is the route you decide to go! As far as daily tasks, there are a lot of different strategies (body scan, environment scan). He can ask himself, "Am I forgetting anything?" Creating an organized environment, setting rituals, and only asking him to do one thing at a time could help him as well. Have his teachers expressed any concerns of him having a learning disability? Hope this helps! Thanks, Deju Green Edge Education Consultant www.edgetutoringservices.com

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User in Midland, TX
July 11, 2016

Since you have only been with him a year, I would ask someone who has known him for longer if this his behavior is normal or a new development. Can you ask his teacher from last year if he had the same issue? In my experience, I have seen that children are extremely resilient, but any type of instability or big change can cause them to react in a new and perhaps negative way. With that in mind, I would sit down with him and ask him why he thinks he is having trouble remembering. Is he bothered by something? Does he not want to do what he is asked? Is there a better system that could work for him? He is only 8 but he should be able to clue you in on a little of what is going on in his head if you are patient with him. If you do find out that this is not a new issue then maybe he needs some testing or to see a specialist. His teacher should be able to help with anything like that.

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It is difficult to determine since I don't know your child. However it is common for children, especially in this modern age, to forget things they have learned because they are constantly bombarded with social media and other technologies that demand their attention and are very distracting. I'll say though that if it is affecting his school work, you'll want to conference with his teacher. He or she will know him best and can make some helpful suggestions as to preparation, study habits, use of memory aids, etc.

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User in Yulee, FL
July 28, 2016

I was a teacher & this sounds like your son is having some difficulty with the new changes in his life. Be patient & kind with him. Use pictures cues: take pics of him doing the task at hand, laminate them, hand him the pictures youbwould like for him to accomplish & as he completes each task he can give back that pic. Start out small 1-2 tasks at first, then move on to more. As he "gets" the idea you can use less pictures. As for reading & school info start out small, read a paragraph to him, have him tell you what it is about, ask him questions cueing him to the answers. Do homework together, he is struggling to swim, don't throw him in the deep end, give him a float & he'll get to the other side! Good luck!

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I am confused by this question. Are you saying that your child isn't able to repeat what you've just said to him? If that is the case I would be very concerned. As far as all of the other things you stated if the above is not true, then it isn't the ideal but it is normal in that it is happening to a lot of kids. Kids are being pushed beyond what is developmentally appropriate. When kids are being pushed what they can learn at the moment then they are not really learning or retaining it. It is basically not even going in because it is so above their heads. It is hard to discern what you are really asking, but as I stated above if you are telling your child a simple directive such as brush your teeth and put on your pajamas and he cannot do that then yes I would be very alarmed and seek professional help for diagnosis and help. If however, what you are saying to him is in adult language or something that he cannot understand yet then no, that is pretty normal.

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User in Mesquite, TX
Aug. 17, 2016

Have you tried finding a way that might just work on him but not on others? Like sometimes for me not to forget anything I have to write it many times to remember it. Maybe you can find things he likes and compare it to some of the school subject or thing he is learning in class together.

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That does sound uncharacteristic for an 8 year old. Retention of facts & details starts with the working memory (the short-term memory). Learning new things or remembering something has to be processed through the working memory before it can be stored in the long-term memory. Continue with what you are doing. Consistent practice with positive encouragement will always help, even if the results aren't very evident. Stay in constant discussion with his teachers. They want to help him as much as you do. As a 3rd grade teacher, I frequently turn to my school's special education teachers when I have a student with similar struggles. They often have out-of-the-box ideas to help turn the problem on it's head. Don't be afraid to seek help from a special education teacher at your son's school. The best of luck to you and your son!

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It's normal for a child to be forgetful. Children may take time to process, recall and form their own thoughts and opinions. Often short-term memory is poor while processing, but long-term memory is incredible. Ask him questions sometimes like what he may remember from years ago, maybe as a baby. Try to see what he remembers, and then figure out why he does. Above all, be very very patient with him and do not lose your temper if you can control it; and be open with him. He will not open up his mind if everything you think and do is a secret.

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User in San Jose, CA
March 14, 2015

Has the teacher mentioned any concerns to you or his parents about him being behind? Children learn in different ways, and it may just be harder for him to retain information merely by hearing/seeing it, so try looking up Multiple Intelligences. I learn by doing things hands-on, and it is very difficult for me to just hear/see something to retain it. However, I am also a step-parent with a 6-year stepson, and we are having the same problem. It could be the way he's learning, or it could be something out of his control. Try talking to the teacher and your partner to brainstorm how he seems to learn best or if you might want to get him tested.

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Request a psycho-educational evaluation immediately and do it with your local Special Education director.

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Kathy in Lakeland, FL
April 29, 2016

Learning styles vary and each child may have one way to learn that is stronger than others or a combination of varied styles may work best. What I mean is that some are auditory learners where they can be told something and it sticks. Others are visual learners where if a task is modeled for them to see, they pick up on it and retain it. Some need a person to talk through the steps while modeling the process so they can both see and hear it. Others need a combination of hearing it explained, seeing it done, and then doing this while guiding them in a hands on trial run with you. Sometimes if you make something into a little song or rap they remember it. I would suggest looking on line for more information about differentiated learning styles so you can read more about it. Also, look up mnemonics and break things down into manageable chunks of 3-5 items; even as adults we have a hard time retaining more than 5 items at one time. It sounds like your son needs something concrete to relate info or details to which will help move things from short term memory to long term. He is 8; not an adult. They reason differently at different age levels. Don't sweat the step-parent thing. Just do some studying up on what I suggested. Lastly, regarding the school situation, teachers have a lot of material to cover each and every day; and, with the teacher to student ratio it is difficult to give the kids one-on-one interaction each time. Talk with the teacher and get specifics on what is exactly happening. Is he distracted by noise in the room or another student? Does he have visual or hearing difficulties that no one has noticed? If he worried about the family situation? Kids carry more around in worry than we can see on the outside. If he needs to have visits to the school counselor for some support, get him in there. Each day is precious and lost time/education is nearly impossible to make up. I have a Masters in Education and hope these are suggestions that you will take to heart and find helpful. You can do this! Talk with him; be patient; don't yell at him or say things like, "What is wrong with you?!?" Work gently with him to get to the real root of the problem and making an effective plan will benefit all of you. Expect him to do the best that he can which will mean occasional mistakes; talk through them and continue looking ahead and give him lots of praise for jobs well done!

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Reeta in Clifton, VA
May 30, 2018

I do not think you are over-reacting. It is possible he is anxious. I would suggest try typing out the instructions for him or have him write out the instructions and make sure he is actively writing out instructions and not doing it passively otherwise it will not be helpful/beneficial. Also, it might help to get a tutor and work on skills for the first, second, and third grades with your son....there are books from Barnes and Noble

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