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Working memory 1

Running head: WORKING MEMORY

Working memory in children with developmental disorders
Tracy Packiam Alloway
University of Stirling
Gnanathusharan Rajendran
University of Strathclyde
Lisa M. D. Archibald
University of Western Ontario

Contact information:
Dr. Tracy Packiam Alloway
Department of Psychology
University of Stirling
Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK

Working memory 2
The aim of the present study was to directly compare working memory skills across students
with different developmental disorders in orders to investigate whether the uniqueness of their
diagnosis would impact memory skills. We report findings confirming differential memory
profiles on the basis of the following developmental disorders: Specific Language Impairment
(SLI), Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD), and Asperger syndrome (AS). Specifically, language impairments were associated
with selective deficits in verbal short-term and working memory, while motor impairments
(DCD) with selective deficits in visuo-spatial short-term and working memory. Children with
attention problems were impaired in working memory in both verbal and visuo-spatial domains,
while the Children with AS had deficits in verbal short-term memory but not in any other
memory component. The implications of these findings are discussed in light of support for

Keywords: working memory, Specific Language Impairment, Developmental Coordination
Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger Syndrome.

This research was supported by a research grant awarded by the Economic and Social
Research Council of Great Britain to Tracy Packiam Alloway; and the University of
Edinburgh’s Development Trust Research Fund to Gnanathusharan Rajendran. The authors
wish to thank Joni Holmes and Kerry Hilton for assistance in data collection for the children
with ADHD.

Working memory 3
Working memory in children with developmental disorders

Learning disabilities, which include language impairments, motor impairments, and
behavioral problems, are thought to impact almost 8% of children in the United States (CDC,
1999). It is not always clear what causes these difficulties, resulting in different models that
account for the nature of the various cognitive profiles. Of interest in the present study is the role
of working memory, the ability to store and manipulate information for brief periods, in the
following disorders: Specific Language Impairment, Developmental Coordination Disorder,
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Asperger syndrome. We first briefly describe the
cognitive profile of children with developmental disorders and then investigate how working
memory impacts their cognitive profiles.
Specific Language Impairment (SLI). SLI is characterized by an unexpected failure to
develop language at the usual rate, despite normal general intellectual abilities, sensory
functions, and environmental exposure to language. One clinical marker for SLI is a verbal shortterm memory task, nonword repetition (Bishop, North, & Donlan, 1996), and has led to the
suggestion that deficits in this area characterizes SLI (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1990) Converging
evidence comes from studies demonstrating corresponding deficits on other verbal short-term
memory tasks such as digit span and word list recall in this cohort (Hick, Botting, & ContiRamsden, 2005). Verbal short-term memory has been specifically linked to learning the
phonological forms of new words (Gathercole, Hitch, Service, & Martin, 1997), and it is possible
that such difficulties in children with SLI would disrupt language learning. Working memory
impairments for SLI groups have also been reported in tasks requiring the simultaneous storage
and processing of verbal information (Ellis Weismer, Evans, & Hesketh, 1999; Hoffman &

Research on the memory profile of children with AS is relatively sparse. 1990). such as forward recall of letters. confusion about which hand to use. although findings in relation to visuo-spatial information have been mixed (Archibald & Gathercole. Chhabildas. AS is a common subgroup of the autistic spectrum and we can gain some insight into their memory profile from studies on Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Bavin. Oosterlaan. 2003). children with ADHD typically perform within ageexpected levels in short-term memory tasks. Olson. 2005. visuo-spatial working memory deficits tend to be more substantial than verbal ones (Martinussen. Wilson. words. reading and writing difficulties.Working memory 4 Gillam. & Tannock. & Sleeman. including working memory (van Mourik. 2006). that trigger secondary effects in various executive functions. DCD is a generalized problem that affects movement as well as perception (Visser. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Pennington. and an inability to hold a pen or pencil properly. 2007. Hayden. Maruff. and spatial locations (Roodenrys. In particular. ADHD is characterized by difficulties with inhibiting behavior (Barkley. digits. Willcutt. & Ménard. & Sergeant. 2000). 2005) In contrast. & Hulslander. Individuals with autism . Ménard. HoggJohnson. 2008). 2004. difficulties throwing or catching a ball. possibly due to the relative recency of this diagnosis (Belleville. Mottron. their memory profile does not differ greatly compared to children with DCD and typical language skills (Alloway & Archibald. Montgomery. 2006) Asperger syndrome (AS). 2003) Observable behaviors in children with DCD include clumsiness. 2007) or specific language impairments (Archibald & Alloway. poor posture. 2005). 2005). Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Evidence suggests that they have a specific deficit in visuo-spatial memory not found in children with general learning difficulties (Alloway & Temple. 2008) It is worth noting that while those with DCD can have comorbid language impairments (Visser.

Russell. Tuholski. Payne. 2004. 1996) and visuo-spatial tasks (Ozonoff & Strayer. Present study. For example. Gunn. Gathercole. Pennington. for a review). Jarrold. (1996) reported that low functioning autistic adolescents performed more poorly than chronological agematched participants. & Adams. 2006. Russell et al. the Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA. & Henry.Working memory 5 show typical performance in the immediate serial recall in verbal tasks (Bennetto. 2000). Alloway. adult participants (Kane. Gathercole. According to the Baddeley (2000) revision of the influential Baddeley and Hitch (1974) model. Lacey. Hambrick. 2003). In contrast. & Engle. In the present study. 1999. & Pickering. The development of the AWMA was based on a dominant conceptualization of working memory as a system comprising multiple components whose coordinated activity provides the capacity for the . but did not differ from IQ-matched participants on measures of both verbal and visuo-spatial working memory. Working memory is our ability to simultaneously store and process information for a brief period. & Rogers. 2007a). Alloway. & Baddeley. The notion that there is a domain-general component construct that coordinates separate codes for verbal and visuo-spatial storage has been supported by studies of children (Alloway. the processing aspect of the task is controlled by a centralised component known as the central executive (Baddeley. 2004). Rouleau and Caza (1998) found that high functioning autistic persons performed in a similar manner as age and IQ matched controls. neuropsychological patients and neuroimaging research (Jonides. Willis. Wilhelm. Jarrold. Belleville. & Nee. 2001) While working memory skills do not seem to be impaired in this population. 2005). The short-term storage aspect is supported by domain-specific components for verbal and visuo-spatial information (see Baddeley & Logie. the pattern of performance appears to depend on their general ability. memory performance was measured using a computerized and standardized tool. Bayliss. 1996.

the individual is typically required both to process and store increasing amounts of information until the point at which recall errors are made. The advantage of such an approach is that it minimizes discrepancies due to test differences and allows for direct comparisons in performance across developmental disorders. which can impact recall performance. The automated presentation of stimuli also eliminates experimenter differences in presentation rates and vocal inflections. whereas tasks involving only the storage of information were used to measure verbal and visuo-spatial short-term memory. the participant is required to recall sequences of verbal material such as digits. In these working memory tasks. One example of a verbal working memory task is listening recall. The AWMA provides three measures each of verbal and visuo-spatial aspects of short-term memory and working memory.Working memory 6 temporary storage and manipulation of information in a variety of domains. As such. In line with a substantial body of prior evidence. words. Analogous visuo-spatial working memory tasks include rotating images and recalling their locations. or of filled cells in a visual matrix. or nonwords. More complex memory tasks have been designed to assess the central executive/attentional control aspect of the working memory. In tests of verbal short-term memory (tapping the phonological loop). Visuo-spatial short-term memory tests (tapping the visuo-spatial sketchpad) involve the presentation and recall of material such as sequences of tapped blocks. verbal and visuo-spatial working memory were measured using tasks involving simultaneous storage and processing of information. in which the participant verifies a sentence and then recalls the final word. any differences in memory skills could be attributed to a particular disorder. To our knowledge. this is the first study that directly compared memory profiles of these four developmental disorders using a common assessment. .

in press). 1998). The first possibility is that working memory difficulties represent a primary deficit that impacts both verbal and visuo-spatial memory functioning in these disorder groups. Swanson & Beebe-Frankenberger. Jordan. 2003. Swanson. Kirkwood. Willis. in press. Alloway. Recent evidence from a large-scale study of children identified on the basis of very low working memory scores indicated that these students have a pervasive working memory deficit that extends to both verbal and visuo-spatial tasks. . their difficulty might stem from a generalized working memory deficit. There is substantial evidence for the link between working memory and learning in both reading (Gathercole. & Elliott. An alternate possibility is that working memory problems may not represent damage to a separate cognitive mechanism. Gathercole. For example.Working memory 7 As all of the developmental disorder groups of interest appear to have working memory deficits. As a result of these generalized working memory deficits. & Adams. and students with AS would have difficulty in verbal tasks related to their language difficulties. we can investigate two different explanations. verbal memory impairments would be greater in children with SLI as these are linked with language skills. but rather could be impacted by specific modular deficits that are characteristic of developmental disorders (Frith & Happé. 2006. As the developmental disorder groups in the present study perform poorly in learning outcomes as well. those with ADHD would struggle in working memory tasks linked to attentional problems. for a review). the majority of these students scored very poorly in standardized learning outcomes (Alloway. 2001. see Cowan & Alloway. children with DCD would show decrements in visuo-spatial memory as a function of their motor difficulties. 2004) and math (Bull & Scerif. 2005. & Flojo. Gersten.

None of the children with SLI had received a clinical diagnosis of behavioral problems or had motor difficulties confirmed by the Movement Assessment Battery Teacher Checklist (Henderson & Sugden. then it may be best to tailor intervention to support the strengths and weakness of each group. However.2 years.25 SD below the mean on at least two language measures including one receptive measure. . 1997) and the Test for Reception of Grammar (TROG. then a common strategy would suffice to support working memory in the classroom. & Burley. SD=20 months) from primary language units and special schools. 2nd edition (BPVS-II. mean age=9. if working memory deficits vary across disorder groups. 1996). Dunn. Bishop. The SLI group consisted of 15 children (60% boys. impacted by specific core deficits. The gender distribution is consistent with published studies on SLI (Leonard. The receptive measures were the British Picture Vocabulary Scales. If working memory deficits are pervasive impacting both verbal and visuo-spatial domains across disorder groups.Working memory 8 The nature of working memory impairments in developmental disorders has important implications for learning. and none had hearing impairments. The children met the criteria consistent with that of Records and Tomblin (1994) for SLI: Each participant scored at least 1. & Secord. 1997). The expressive measures were the Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT. Parental consent was obtained for each child participating in the study. Whetton. 1998). 1982). Method Participants There were 163 children recruited for this study. 1995). Wiig. and the Recalling Sentences subtest of Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals – UK 3 (CELFUK3. Dunn. All were native English speakers. Semel. Williams.

mean age=8. methylphenidate). The assessments were based on scores in the deficit range on the Continuous Performance Test (Conners. No participants had received a clinical diagnosis of comorbid motor difficulties.10 years. To ensure assessments were uninfluenced by medication (Mehta. The greater number of boys than girls in the ADHD group reflects the higher rate of clinical diagnosis among boys (Gershon. 2002). The study only included children who score in the normal range on the Developmental.g. The ADHD group comprised 83 children (85% boys... Diagnosis of ADHD subtype was confirmed by a comprehensive clinical diagnostic assessment by pediatric psychiatrists and community pediatricians based in the UK. There were 10 AS participants (80% boys. 2004) and clinical assessments during interview sessions using the DSM-IV criteria (APA. Diagnostic and Dimensional Interview (3di). a computerized assessment for autistic spectrum disorders (Skuse et al. 1992). They were diagnosed by the senior pediatrician or child psychiatrist. 1994). None of these children had received a clinical diagnosis of behavioral problems. SD=13 months) with a combination of hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive behavior (ADHD-Combined). The gender distribution corresponds with reports of more males than females being affected (Mandich & Polatajko. 2004). . They were referred by an occupational therapist that had identified them as experiencing motor difficulties using the DSM IV-R criteria and standardized motor assessments such as the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (M-ABC.8 years. Goodyear. participants ceased taking their medication 24 hours prior to testing. SD=19 months) attending mainstream schools.8 years. 2004). SD=18 months) recruited from mainstream schools.Working memory 9 The DCD group consisted of 55 children (80% boys. Henderson & Sugden. mean age=9. & Sahakian. 2003). All children were receiving stimulants for ADHD (e. mean age=8.

Lord. Rutter. 1999). The three verbal short-term memory measures were digit recall. No participants had received a clinical diagnosis of comorbid behavioral or motor disorders. The AWMA (Alloway. and nonword recall. Gathercole. word recall. using observational assessments including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS.69 for digit recall. and repetitive behaviors. & Elliott (2008). For individuals aged 4. In each test. . Memory. the child is required to recall a sequence . backward digit recall.88. All three tests provide standardized scores with a mean value of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. has to verify the sentence by stating ‘true’ or ‘false’ and recalls the final word for each sentence in sequence. The three verbal working memory measures were listening recall. the child is presented with a series of spoken sentences.5 and 22. and has to recall each sequence in the correct order. reciprocal social interaction. The ratio of males to females in the present study corresponds with previous reports (Baird et al. the child hears a sequence of verbal items (digits. 2001) a paper and pencil analogue of the AWMA.89. All children were also administered a measure of nonverbal general ability. . and counting recall. 2007a). In the listening recall task.Working memory 10 with evaluation of communication. In the backwards digit recall task. respectively). and nonword recall respectively. 2007a).. 2007a) consisted of the following tests. one-syllable words. DiLavore. Kirkwood.5 years. & Risi. word recall. test-retest reliability is . Procedure and Materials All children were administered tests from the AWMA (Alloway. the exception was the SLI group who were tested on verbal memory tests from the WMTB-C (Pickering & Gathercole. test validity is reported in Alloway. and one-syllable nonwords. 2006). Test-retest reliability of the AWMA is reported with the description of each test (Alloway.

At the end of each trial. the child views three shapes. In the Mr. In the mazes memory task. The Mr. In the block recall task. respectively. the child views a picture of two arbitrary shapes where the shape on the right has a red dot on it and identifies whether the shape on the right is the same or opposite of the shape on . Three measures of visuo-spatial working memory were administered. X figures. each in a box presented in a row. For individuals aged 4.88. At the end of each trial. the child has to recall the location of each ball in the blue Mr. S/he then has to trace in the same path on a blank maze presented on the computer screen. Three measures of visuo-spatial short-term memory were administered. .5 and 22. X with the yellow hat. the child views a video of a series of blocks being tapped. X’s hand in sequence. In the counting recall task.5 years.83. the child is shown the position of a red dot in a series of four by four matrices and has to recall this position by tapping the squares on the computer screen. The child identifies whether the Mr. S/he is required to count the number of circles in an array and then recall the tallies of circles in the arrays that were presented. For individuals aged 4. . in the correct order. X with the blue hat may also be rotated.5 years. In the dot matrix task. In the odd-one-out task. test-retest reliability is .90 for dot matrix. by tapping the correct box on the screen. and backward digit recall respectively. . the child is presented with a picture of two Mr. by pointing to a picture with eight compass points. test-retest reliability is . X with the blue hat is holding the ball in the same hand as the Mr. the child is presented with a visual array of red circles and blue triangles. In the spatial recall task. and reproduces the sequence in the correct order by tapping on a picture of the blocks.86 for listening recall. the child is shown a maze with a red path drawn through it for three seconds.86.Working memory 11 of spoken digits in the reverse order.5 and 22. X task. mazes memory. counting recall. and identifies the odd-oneout shape.85. and block recall. . the child recalls the location of each odd one out shape.

As there is no discrete point at which typical and atypical performance can be unequivocally distinguished. This was indexed using the Block Design subtest from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III. a measure of nonverbal reasoning. Wechsler.5 years. cumulative proportions over a range of values that represent different degrees of severity of low performance are presented. For individuals aged 4. children with DCD had a depressed performance in all areas. The following patterns emerge: children with SLI exhibited weakness in both verbal short-term and working memory tasks. The shape with the red dot may also be rotated. by pointing to a picture with three compass points. respectively. Nonverbal IQ. At the end of each trial. the child has to recall the location of each red dot on the shape in sequence. & Raven. X.88. with particularly low scores in visuo-spatial memory tasks. . Court. <Table 2 here> In order to determine the prevalence of working memory deficits across groups. For the . Mr.Working memory 12 the left.79 for odd-one-out. .5 and 22. and children with AS had a selective verbal short-term memory deficit.84. children with ADHD performed within age-expected levels in short-term memory but had a pervasive working memory deficit that impacted both verbal and visuo-spatial domains. and spatial recall. 1992). test-retest reliability is . see Table 2). 1986) instead. The SLI group completed the Raven’s Colored Matrices (Raven. the proportions of children obtaining composite scores below and above particular cut-off values were calculated (<86 and >95. Results <Table 1 here> Descriptive statistics for memory and IQ as a function of group are shown in Table 1.

05. respectively).15). The probability value associated with Hotelling’s T-test is reported. for verbal and visuo-spatial working memory. in visuo-spatial STM the ADHD group performed better than those with DCD. About two-thirds of the children with SLI achieved scores of less than 86 in the verbal memory measures (67% and 80%.. visuo-spatial STM. for visuo-spatial short-term memory and working memory. respectively). but not verbal WM. and AS groups. respectively). Over half of the children with ADHD had deficits (<86) in the working memory measures (51% and 61%. in verbal working memory there was no difference between groups. see Table 2). F values and effects sizes are reported in Table 2): verbal STM. p<. In order to compare the specificity of deficits between the groups. Post-hoc pairwise comparisons found significant differences between the following groups (p<.05. a MANOVA was performed on the memory composite standard scores. in press). and in visuo-spatial WM the AS group performed better than those with DCD and ADHD. and visuo-spatial WM. a MANCOVA was performed on the four composite memory . Over half of the children with DCD had deficits (<86) in the visuo-spatial memory measures (56% and 60%. values below one standard deviation from the mean (standard scores <86) are viewed as indicative of mild deficit. (F=6. η2p=. Bonferroni adjustment for multiple comparisons. The overall group term was significant. DCD. for verbal short-term memory and working memory. In order to investigate whether nonverbal IQ was mediating performance on memory measures between the groups. In verbal STM the ADHD group performed better than the SLI.001. with lower scores representing greater degrees of severity (see Alloway et al.Working memory 13 present purposes. Significant deficits were found in the following memory components (p<. The majority of children with AS scored less than 86 on the verbal short-term memory measure (70%).56.

in verbal working memory those with AS and DCD performed better than the SLI group. Bonferroni adjustment for multiple comparisons. (F=6. Rather.Working memory 14 measures. Significant deficits were found in the following memory components (p<. . the pattern was slightly different. rather than a pervasive working memory deficit that impacted both verbal and visuo-spatial functioning equally across groups.05.001. 1998). with the nonverbal IQ measure as a covariate. In verbal STM the ADHD group performed better than the SLI and AS groups. While the overall group term was significant. F values and effects sizes are reported in Table 2): verbal STM. and visuo-spatial WM. and those with DCD performed better than those with SLI. This view provides some insight to why the memory profiles reflected the core impairments of the disorder groups in the present study. in visuo-spatial STM there was no difference between groups. Discussion The aim of this study was to investigate the nature of working memory deficits in prevalent developmental disorders found in mainstream education.14).45. verbal WM. or social difficulties. This corresponds with the view that a core impairment associated with particular developmental disorders can have a cascading effect on other cognitive skills (Frith & Happé. Post-hoc pairwise comparisons found significant differences in the following groups (p<. The findings indicate that while the general pattern of findings remained similar. see Table 2). nonverbal IQ appeared to mediate the memory performance of those with DCD. and the AS group also did better than those with ADHD. η2p=. possibly driven by core deficits in language. p<.05. working memory appears to be secondary deficit. and in visuo-spatial WM the AS group performed better than those with ADHD. The data indicate that the four cohorts had unique working memory profiles. but not visuo-spatial STM. behavior. motor.

The children with DCD had noticeable visuo-spatial memory deficits.Working memory 15 We now discuss the implications of the unique working memory patterns in the different developmental disorders. These children performed worse in verbal short-term memory compared to those with ADHD and DCD once nonverbal ability was statistically accounted. with only a small proportion falling below average levels. It is likely that children with SLI struggle with storing and processing verbal information. Both the short-term memory and working memory tests required participants to touch the screen. . for further discussion). mentally rotate objects. 2004). including vocabulary and language skills (Archibald & Gathercole. One explanation for the visuo-spatial memory deficits in the group with DCD can in part be explained by the motor component of the tests (see Alloway. 2006). a similar pattern was observed as the children with DCD no longer performed significantly worse than the other disorder groups in the visuo-spatial memory tests once the shared motor component with the IQ test (Block Design) was statistically accounted. 2007b. 2001). In contrast. The SLI group had selective deficits in verbal short-term and working memory. such as Block Design. Studies using nonverbal IQ tests that included a motor component. have also reported depressed IQ scores (Coleman. These deficits may reflect the multiplicity of cognitive skills that contribute to this task. In the present study. Piek & Livesey. performing worse than those with ADHD in visuo-spatial short-term memory. or hold visual information in mind. IQ scores were higher when the test did not involve motor skills (Bonifacci. Their verbal working memory skills were also poorer than those with DCD and AS. and those with AS in visuo-spatial working memory tests. In contrast. their visuo-spatial short-term and working memory scores were within age-expected levels. rather storing verbal information only.

even when nonverbal IQ was taken into account (Alloway. poor performance was restricted to verbal short-term memory. data comparing behavioral profiles of children with ADHD and those with low working memory indicate that those with ADHD were associated with oppositional and hyperactive behavior compared to those with working memory deficits (Alloway. & Elliott. The verbal short-term memory deficits evidenced in the present study could be the result of a computerized presentation of verbal stimuli as this group was not able to benefit from phono-articulatory features available in spoken . Holmes. 2008).Working memory 16 The children with DCD also appeared to have a separate problem processing and storing information that likely underpins learning difficulties. Gathercole. however this effect did not transfer to reading and math scores (Alloway & Warner. children with DCD and co morbid learning difficulties participated in a 13-week program of task-specific motor exercises. They struggled with processing information irrespective of the modality of the material to be remembered or mentally manipulated. In children with AS. with scores in the typical range for the other memory tasks. As a result. it is the latter skill that impacts learning outcomes. Correspondingly. The students with ADHD had working memory impairments across both verbal and visuospatial domains. their poor working memory scores were a reflection of lack of behavioral inhibition rather than a working memory deficit per se. Place. 2008).. The findings indicated that motor skills improved. In a recent intervention study. 2007b). Related research has found that visuospatial memory was uniquely linked to learning outcomes. It is possible that these children had difficulty regulating their behavior and so struggled to attend to the information in the first instance. This suggests that while there is a link between motor skills and working memory. Research on the improved working memory scores as a result of medication to regulate behavior and maintain focus provides some support for this notion (Mehta et al. 2004).

Carpenter. rather than a generalized working memory impairment. The sample size was admittedly uneven. thus strengthening their skills. Williams. It is possible that these deficits are linked with problems of language and communication in this disorder as they are required to engage in social reciprocity which includes remembering conversations in order to participate. a larger sample size . The study would benefit from a prior matching of groups with age. 2005).. The relatively strong performance in verbal working memory and visuo-spatial memory tasks suggest that these students do not struggle with the simultaneous task of processing and storing information. However. This dissociation in performance supports the view that such deficits are likely to be intrinsic to skills underlying planning and problem solving tasks specifically. & Minshew. replication with a larger sample would provide a better test of potential differences in working memory profiles. Goldstein. or if the memory problems underpin language problems. Other researchers who have found similarly good verbal working memory profiles in these populations propose that these skills do not drive impairments in associated executive function tasks such as planning and problem solving (e. it is possible that diagnostic changes occur with time and matching the groups by age would address this issue. Further research is needed to identify whether communication difficulties in those with AS lead to verbal short-term memory difficulties. There are some limitations to the present study that would be useful to consider in future considerations. The gender bias in the present study is in line with reported higher male to female ratios in the various disorders. While reported effect sizes indicate a modest difference across groups.g. While standardized tests with age-appropriate norms were used in this study.Working memory 17 presentation. The additional requirement of manipulating information may provide individuals with AS more opportunity to link arbitrary verbal information with knowledge from their longterm memory.

2005) and working memory in those with ADHD (Klingberg et al. the use of the Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA. & Rosen. First. as well as long-term memory in those with language problems (Francis. Brzustowicz.Working memory 18 would also provide the opportunity to explore such biases in working memory in these disorder groups. These limitations notwithstanding. verbal short-term memory deficits could be compensated by areas of strength in visuo-spatial short-term memory through the use of visual aids such as look-up tables. There is also evidence that cognitive training improves language skills in children with SLI (Bishop. 2003). For example. appropriate support and intervention can be offered on the basis of the student’s working memory profile. Adams. the child will struggle to hold in mind and manipulate relevant material in the course of ongoing mental activities. 2005). Support to prevent working memory overload and consequent task failure includes breaking down tasks into smaller components. Where working memory deficits are present. Such strategies have been found to improve working memory.. & Humphreys. Conversely. 2002). 2007a) as a means of distinguishing between children on the basis of their working memory profiles may be valuable in assisting clinicians and educational psychologists in identifying what lies at the root of the problems faced by a particular child. weaknesses in visuo-spatial short-term memory can be boosted by relying on verbal strategies like rehearsal. and using long-term memory to assist recall (Gathercole & Alloway. Alloway. It would also be useful to include standardized measures of learning outcomes as a covariate given the co-occurrence of reading difficulties in those with SLI (Flax. Next. . & Tallal. Lehtonen. 2008). Clark. there are clear implications for learning. 2003) and ADHD (Rucklidge & Tannock. Realpe-Bonilla. Hirsch. simplifying the nature of the information to be remembered. sentence recall and comprehension. Bartlett.

. The uniqueness of the diagnosis indicated by the AWMA identifies not only areas of deficit. but also areas of strength on which compensatory strategies can be effectively built. We find that the distinct memory profiles associated with each disorder reflect the nature of their deficit to some degree.Working memory 19 In summary. the present study investigated the strengths and weaknesses of working memory in different developmental disorders.

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Working memory 29 .

78 Backward digit recall 82.75 Verbal STM 83.15 17.01 Verbal WM 80.73 15.20 7.13 10.68 86.54 85.83 13.87 90.30 17.02 85.70 88.40 Counting recall 73.82 94.54 80.87 90.62 22.31 13.90 Nonword recall 82.00 12.66 93.84 15.46 87.78 11.70 94.51 97.90 21.70 20.44 16.55 17.80 15.33 Odd one out 95.53 90.81 Word recall 83.11 Listening recall 85.21 90.97 89.20 76.60 15.15 Block recall 92.07 16.03 95.73 7.79 85.11 17.55 .14 97.24 20.60 18.81 18.10 20.82 16.93 7.98 81.72 18.07 14.94 89.02 92.70 18.25 82.66 87.48 17.33 5.25 17.08 16.45 17.99 18.53 101.70 17.67 13.44 89.78 17.31 16.81 80.35 103.60 17.62 88.76 17.37 17.56 Mazes memory 90.10 18.20 14.40 14.Working memory 30 Table 1. Descriptive statistics of standard scores for measures of working memory and nonverbal ability SLI (n=15) DCD (n=55) ADHD (n=83) AS (n=10) Measures Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Digit recall 84.67 90.87 13.93 13.47 VS STM 91.55 98.10 88.25 85.49 86.20 18.65 17.60 80.22 Dot Matrix 93.24 82.35 98.88 80.52 90.33 11.24 14.73 16.

84 Nonverbal ability 103.27 21.49 85. WM=working memory.27 15.53 82.10 18.47 9.93 15.64 18.18 15.87 7.76 76.87 85. AS=Asperger Syndrome.68 VS WM 89.20 14. SLI=Specific Language Impairment.98 8.82 16.53 96.27 9.10 17. VS=visuo-spatial. DCD=Developmental Coordination Disorder.10 15.89 77.84 14.Working memory 31 Mr X 88.59 14.85 83.12 82.67 98.22 Spatial recall 85. .01 Note: STM=short-term memory.48 96.34 82.13 93.

05 ADHD > DCD <1 -- NS Visuo-spatial WM .30 .10 DCD > SLI Verbal WM AS > SLI.60 .13 ADHD>SLI.20 .07 .11 AS > ADHD Nonverbal ability .05 .56 .60 .30 2.42 .40 .50 .79 .20 .25 .19 . ADHD .20 .20 .33 .55 .Working memory 32 Table 2.77 .61 .20 .51 .06 AS > DCD.06 .18 .73 . ADHD 6.80 .16 .30 .50 3.40 .11 DCD > SLI Visuo-spatial STM .35 .DCD. AS .00 .67 .47 .67 .37 .04 NS 6.70 .12 Verbal STM Pairwise comparisons ADHD > SLI.13 .27 .48 .20 .22 . Proportions of children obtaining scores in each band as a function of developmental disorder and cognitive test SLI Measure DCD ADHD AS <86 >95 <86 >95 <86 >95 <86 >95 MANOVA Pairwise MANCOVA F η 2p comparisons F η 2p 8.00 .49 .60 2.AS 7.

Working memory 33 .