Working Memory | IEP Goals | Interventions | Accommodations

working memory iep goals

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

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.

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

Working Memory Skills-Adult Examples

working memory skills adult

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

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

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Orchard Toys Shopping List - Educational Memory Game - Age 3-7 - Perfect For Home Learning
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Bestseller No. 2
52 Essential Conversations: The Life Skills Card Game for Children and Adults - Builds Social Emotional, Critical Thinking, Growth Mindset & Vocabulary Skills - Created by Harvard Educators
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52 Essential Conversations: The Life Skills Card Game for Children and Adults - Builds Social Emotional, Critical Thinking, Growth Mindset & Vocabulary Skills - Created by Harvard Educators
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Learning Resources Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game, Homeschool, 20 Blocks, 20 Activity Cards, Ages 5+
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Simon Micro Series Game, Single
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Simon Micro Series Game, Single
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