Working Memory | IEP Goals | Interventions | Accommodations

working memory iep goals
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Working Memory IEP goals

Does your child struggle with Working Memory issues, and you want them added to the IEP? Have you heard parents talk about working memory skills, but you’re not sure what they are?

Ok, remember these?

phone book working memory
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I’m dating myself a bit, I know. But these are a great example of how we exercised our working memory. If you wanted to make a call, you looked up the number. You quickly memorized it while you walked to the telephone (which was attached to the wall!). When you got to the phone, you dialed the number, recalling it using your working memory.

Has it ever been raining when you went to work…but not on the way home? And then you forgot to bring your umbrella home, right? Because your working memory did not remind you! If the rain was not present to remind you to grab an umbrella, you forgot.

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Functions of Working Memory:

Working memory is considered one of our Executive Functions. Here are some examples of how working memory can affect you at school or at home.

  • help you solve math problems
  • make and achieve time management goals
  • allow you to complete a longer reading passage and remember the beginning, and it’s relevance to the rest of the story/book
  • ability to look in your fridge or pantry and remember what you need to buy at the grocery store
  • ability to remember to bring home important things (like homework, shoes, coats)

We all do this all the time! In the morning it’s cool, so we wear a jacket or sweater. In the afternoon, it’s warm, so we forget to bring home that jacket or sweater. Throw in a few sensory issues, and it makes perfect sense why your kid came home only wearing one shoe. It happens!

Lack of a strong working memory can often be mistaken for cognitive and academic deficits, so interventions are definitely warranted. Working memory involves the ability to keep information active in your mind for a short time (2-3 seconds) to be able to use it for further processing. Working memory is our temporary storage system and helps us with our day-to-day tasks (e.g. following instructions, responding in conversations, listening and reading comprehension, organization). Can your child follow directions that are 2-3 steps? If not, they likely lack working memory skills.

Again, this is one of those invisible skills, or at least it is invisible if it’s present. If a person is lacking good working memory skills, then it’s very visible and often treated punitively rather than being supported.

How many times do you see an adult with a phone number or short phrase written on their hand? That is their own accommodation for working memory!

Cog-Med has some excellent charts and graphics that show working memory skills. Take a look.

Working Memory Skills for Kids

working memory skills kids
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Working Memory Skills-Adult Examples

working memory skills adult
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Working Memory IEP Goals

Goals should be developed using the student’s baselines defined in IEP Present Levels. From there, I would take the area of need and using the baseline and the IEP goal formula, make it measurable (flow chart below).

  1. The student will accurately repeat verbal instructions with 80% accuracy before beginning assignment as evidenced by teacher/staff observation and data.
  2. The student will accurately follow classroom procedures for turning in assignments with 80% accuracy 4 out of 5 consecutive days.
  3. The student will use mnemonics to aid in memorization of content material 4 out of 5 times as measured by teacher observations and data.
  4. The student will use graphic organizers to record or recall content knowledge 8 out of 10 times as evidenced by teacher feedback.
  5. The student will use an app or designated system to record questions that cannot be answered immediately.

IEP goal formula for special education
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Printable List of Working Memory Goals and Interventions

I found this only and while it overlaps a lot of the EF skills, it’s a good resource.

Working Memory Skills-Fluctuations

Many students lack working memory skills, or our skills fluctuate depending on age and stage of life. When we are stressed, we forget things. When we’re sick, unhealthy, distracted, the importance of the item, all of these things can affect working memory. I can remember exactly what brands and varieties of foods Kevin will eat and which restaurants have items for him. But I cannot buy my husband a 6-pack of beer that he likes and I continually buy him the wrong packs of sushi at Wegman’s. One item is just more important for me to remember.

If you’re aware of your issues, most adults compensate and find their own accommodations, such as creating a shopping list before you go to the grocery store. But if you have other learning disabilities or problem-solving is not your strong suit, the student may need accommodations and practice. Your working memory can improve with practice.

Working Memory IEP Accommodations

Here is a great chart I found from LD Canada.


In addition to IEP goals and SDIs that address working memory, you want it to be fun. There are many categories of board games and puzzles that will exercise your working memory.

A final note: I have seen so many kids who are punished for forgetting homework. Punished for forgetting to bring something to school or home. Yes, to function in society, it’s important to learn working memory skills or have our own set of supports. I cannot stress enough to work with the child, get their input and ideas and suggestions. I have seen too many kids just get downtrodden and deflated, because they are punished or grounded, over and over for something they are having trouble learning.

Most kids want to improve these skills and are not just being defiant by not bringing in homework. Stick with your child and get your team on board with supports and activities that help your child learn these skills….not just continually being punished for not having them.

Good luck!

Working Memory Games for Kids

Bestseller No. 1
Learning Resources Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game, Homeschool, 20 Blocks, 20 Activity Cards, Ages 5+
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720 Reviews
Learning Resources Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game, Homeschool, 20 Blocks, 20 Activity Cards, Ages 5+
  • Stack, pattern and match the multicolor shapes, but don’t be fooled by these endlessly enjoyable blocks mean brain-boosting business
  • ANALYTICAL & CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS: Mental Blox help children practice following verbal instructions, asking questions and build critical thinking skills. Activity cards provide children with examples of what to build
  • AT HOME LEARNING: Mental Blox is a great addition to keep your kids learning at home, while having fun!
  • 40 PIECE SET: This logic game includes 20 chunky plastic blocks, 20 activity cards, an activity guide and features four different shapes and three different attributes for a real challenge
  • Homeschool supplies for ages 5 and up
Bestseller No. 2 Gifted Learning Flash Cards – Focus and Memory for Pre-K – Kindergarten – Gifted and Talented Educational Toy Practice for CogAT Test, Iowa Test, OLSAT, SCAT, WISC, WPPSI, AABL and more
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58 Reviews Gifted Learning Flash Cards – Focus and Memory for Pre-K – Kindergarten – Gifted and Talented Educational Toy Practice for CogAT Test, Iowa Test, OLSAT, SCAT, WISC, WPPSI, AABL and more
  • IMPROVE THE CRITICAL SKILL YOUR CHILD NEEDS FOR SCHOOL AND GIFTED TESTING SUCCESS: Build your child's working memory - their ability to hold information in their heads and use it - to improve performance in reading, math word problems, gifted testing, following directions and more.
  • TURN SKILL BUILDING INTO PLAY with activities featuring TestingMom's wacky and silly Space Babies! Use these cards to make a long car ride feel shorter. Or add in a few rewards (like a sticker for every right answer!) and make learning a game.
  • ENJOY HOURS OF OFFLINE LEARNING FUN with 450+ challenges on 72 cards. Encourage tactile play while reducing screen time.
  • CREATED FOR PARENTS BY PARENTS: These Gifted Learning flash cards are the brainchild of Karen Quinn, the Testing Mom, who knew she had to get creative when her son scored well below his potential on an early IQ test. The result? Learning tools that feel like play.
  • DURABLE, SMUDGE PROOF CARDS are easy to clean and will last through countless sessions at home, in the car or on the go!
Bestseller No. 3
Thinkfun Distraction Card Game
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132 Reviews
Thinkfun Distraction Card Game
  • Quirky questions keep the whole family engaged for laugh out loud fun
  • Strengthens working memory and improves recall
  • Includes 1 Deck of 54 Round Number Cards, 1 Deck of 50 Rectangular Distraction Cards with 100 Distraction Questions
  • Ages 8 to adult, 2 or more players
SaleBestseller No. 4
Mindware – Q-bitz
  • GAME TO TRAIN THE BRAIN: The Q-bitz game is a great way to say goodbye to boredom and challenge your mind all at once. Practice your symmetry, visual dexterity, quick thinking, and competitive nature. Q-bitz stimulates the brain to use spatial reasoning and memory skill making it perfect for both the classroom and at home.
  • THREE WAYS TO PLAY: With Q-bitz, it's not the same game over and over again. You get 80 different puzzle cards that you can compete to complete in 3 different ways. That's over 200 different ways to play. Combine that with different friends and you have a new experience every time.
  • COMPREHENSIBLE GAME PLAY: Each game contains three rounds, each round with a different card. Players puzzle over how to recreate the patterns on the game cards using their set of 16 cubes. The first player to match the pattern wins the card. The player with the most cards, wins the game.
  • AWARD WINNING FUN: Q-bitz has received accolades including Parent's Choice Gold Award, National Parenting Publications Awards' Nappa Gold. Tillywig Toy Award's Bain Child Award Winner, and the Major Fun Award. You're sure to have a good time challenging your visual agility with Q-bitz.
  • PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS: Package contains (1) Q-bitz Game by Mindware. Includes 80 Q-bitz cards, 4 wooden trays, and 4 different colored sets of 16 cubes. Game design by Peggy Brown. Suitable for 2 to 4 players ages 6 years and older.
Bestseller No. 5
ThinkFun Zingo Bingo Award Winning Preschool Game for Pre-Readers and Early Readers Age 4 and Up - One of the Most Popular Board Games for Boys and Girls and their Parents, Amazon Exclusive Version
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3,912 Reviews
ThinkFun Zingo Bingo Award Winning Preschool Game for Pre-Readers and Early Readers Age 4 and Up - One of the Most Popular Board Games for Boys and Girls and their Parents, Amazon Exclusive Version
  • Trusted by Families Worldwide - With over 50 million sold, ThinkFun is the world's leading manufacturer of brain games and mind challenging puzzles.
  • Develops critical skills – Perfect for pre-readers and early readers, builds language and matching skills in preschool kids through fun, fast-paced play. Zingo is as popular in the classroom with teachers as it is in the home with families!
  • What you get - This is the Amazon exclusive version of the world famous game Zingo, one of ThinkFun's best games for kids ages 4 and up, and it includes an extra Zingo card so that up to 7 players can play! Also includes a unique Zinger device that delights players of all ages.
  • Clear instructions – Easy to learn with a clear, high quality instruction manual. You can start playing right away!
  • Award winner - Zingo has won many awards including an Oppenheim Gold, Parents' Choice Award, ASTRA Best Toys for Kids Award, and is a three time Toy of the Year Nominee, which makes it a great gift for boys and girls ages 4 and up.

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