Problems with attention, listening, and learning

If given repeated exposure, people with Duchenne are generally able to memorize the same amount of new information as other children. However, the amount of information that they are able to take in at any one time may be less than other children. This type of memory is called short-term memory or working memory. People who have difficulty in this area may appear forgetful, have difficulty following directions, or seem to not listen. These memory weaknesses are particularly related to verbal information, but some people also have difficulty with visual information. Even people with Duchenne who have a high IQ and strong verbal skills can have this pattern of memory weaknesses.

People living with Duchenne have an increased chance for problems with attention, concentration, and distractibility. They may also be “inefficient” in the amount of time it takes them to work through things (slow processing speed) and may have difficulty dividing their attention (multitasking). For related information, see our section on Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Examples of interventions

  • Provide seating near the instruction area.
  • If the child can’t sit still, allow him to stand when working.
  • Instructions should be broken down into individual steps, which are provided one at a time.
  • Break down new information into smaller chunks and check for understanding before moving on.
  • Consider eliminating time constraints for tests and give extra time for assignments.
  • Provide a quiet, non-stimulating environment for test taking or completing assignments, outside of the classroom if necessary.
  • Develop a reward system to aid in work perseverance. This should focus on rewarding positive on-task behaviors, rather than punishing off-task behaviors.
  • Provide advanced warning of transitions (e.g. “Two minutes until…”).
  • Provide clear expectations and remain calm, firm, positive, and encouraging.
  • Keep the classroom well organized, structured, and controlled.
  • Summarize information at the end of each instructional lesson to assist with synthesis, organization, and retention of the information.

Information in this section was contributed, in part, by James Poysky, PhD. Read Dr. Poysky’s entire document, Learning and Behavior in Duchenne (download).