How to Help Children with Auditory Memory Difficulties (Memory for the Spoken Word)


What is Auditory Memory?

Auditory memory involves the holding spoken information in your mind whilst it is processed for meaning and long-term storage.  For example, a child may need to remember 3 things they have to bring to their desk, or to ‘write the date, underline it and draw 3 insects.’ 

Many children who have difficulty understanding spoken language or expressing themselves also have problems remembering information and may:

  • Have difficulty remembering large quantities of verbal information
  • Only recall/carry out part of an instruction
  • Switch off and stop listening if too much information is given
  • Watch and follow what other children are doing which may mask their difficulties in some situations. 
  • Struggle to answer questions based on a story that has been read to them


General Strategies

  • Find out how many items of information the child can remember.
  • Keep instructions short and simple
  • Break down large quantities of spoken information into smaller chunks
  • Give instructions one at a time
  • Repeat the information and encourage the child to say it back to you
  • Encourage all the children to say if they haven’t remembered everything


Specific Strategies

  • Use visual prompts, e.g. objects, pictures, visual timetables, charts, tables, lists, story plans, mind maps etc.
  • Encourage older children to write key points in a notebook and use this as a checklist.
  • Encourage the child to try different strategies to help themselves:-
    • Working out what the important words are in an instruction e.g. ‘Could you please go and get your maths books, and then hand them in to Miss Smith.’
    • Repeating out loud what they have to remember (as you would do when trying to remember a phone number).
    • Visualising the items (trying to see a picture in their mind’s eye). 



  • Practice auditory memory skills through games. For each game, think about how many items the child can remember, and then work at that level and the one above e.g. If your child can remember three items, give them instructions which contain three, and sometimes four key pieces of information.
  • Go and touch -This game can be carried out inside or outside.  Start by asking the child to go and touch one item, e.g. ‘go and touch the climbing frame’.  Gradually increase the number of items a child has to touch before returning to you.
  • I went shopping-Start the game by saying ‘I went shopping and I bought a book’.  The next child repeats this and adds on an item etc
  • Simon says- Start with one instruction, e.g. ‘Simon says touch your nose’ and gradually increase the number of steps in the instruction
  • Colouring or drawing pictures (see ‘Useful resources’)- Give specific instructions e.g ‘colour the rabbit’s tail red’, ‘Draw a circle at the top of the page’.
  • Barrier games- Children work in pairs with a barrier between them so they cannot see each other’s work but have to take turns to give and receive instructions about drawing and colouring the pictures.  At the end, they can compare their pictures to see who was listening and remembering carefully. 


Useful websites:

  •  This is the website for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
  •  This is a useful website for parents and teachers.  It contains information and advice.
  •  This is a parent led organisation that offers information and advice.  There are areas on the website for professionals also.