I was going to do a post on memory in individuals with Down syndrome, a bit of a musing, playing out my thoughts, trying to answer my own questions, soliciting answers from all of you, but upon conducting a quick Google search, I have discovered that I have a lot more research to do. I had been wondering about the differences between short-term and long-term memory, wondering if short-term memory, something that's generally known to be a deficiency for our chromosomally-enhanced friends and family members, isn't, in fact, necessary to achieve before it can become long-term memory. I mean, wouldn't it make sense that you'd have to learn something in the short-term to be able to store it for long-term? And with the visual strengths these individuals have, as evidenced by ability to learn sight-words over phonics, manipulatives over verbal concepts, etc., how does that come into play here? Does visual strength equal something akin to eidetic (photographic) memory? Can Samantha's uncanny ability to remember where something was put/left/forgotten-by-me mean something that sounds considerably more attractive than the "poor short-term memory" that we see bandied about so frequently?
And, again, my research needs to be done first. In the 60 seconds before I began this post (in this excellent article), I learned that in people with Down syndrome, it's more a deficiency in verbal short-term memory that they posess, thus the visual strengths. And for long-term memory, there are deficiencies as well, which makes sense. There's something called explicit memory, which involves things like facts and concepts that take a conscious effort to recollect, and something called implicit memory, which, according to Wikipedia, is "a type of memory in which previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without conscious awareness of these previous experiences." We rely on this type of memory for everyday life as a sort of "procedural memory." We have routines. We do things because we've done them before. We know how things work because we've seen them work before. We know which piece of a puzzle is missing because we know what the picture is. I read that people with organic amnesia also are impaired when it comes to explicit memory, whereas their implicit memory is relatively intact.
Fascinating stuff. I know that there is research being conducted to improve memory and cognition in people with Down syndrome, and reading about memory has really opened my eyes to things I subconsciously already knew - I mean, it makes sense, but now I have the words and the descriptions to understand a little bit more.
I'm always blown away by the kinds of things Samantha remembers, so I've always wondered how there could be such widely-acknowledged impairment. However, now I understand that her excellent memory is certainly procedural, visually-instigated, implicit. Concepts are difficult for Samantha to understand. This is why Math and Science and History can be challenging for her, unless they're taught using manipulatives, or hands-on experimentation. With this knowledge, we will be requesting pull-outs for Math at her next IEP meeting. I know that we need to play to her strengths, rather than push for equal learning with the rest of her peers just to prove a point. It just won't work. I'm not going to cut my nose off to spite my face, at her expense. If we want her to be successful, want her to feel good about what she's doing, want her to learn instead of feeling frustrated and giving up, this is most definitely what we want to do.
Knowledge is power.