Using the memory you have

Anonymous said to :

I have memory issues. Things like names, dates or times, directions, and other important details often escape me. Lately, I’ve been using “external memory” in the form of a notebook or my phone.

However, people tend to get impatient or bored at best when you’re constantly consulting a notebook in order to tell them what you need.

At worst, they talk over me, try to tell me what they think I want, or walk away.

How do I get people to understand?

Or should I just work on fixing my memory instead?

realsocialskills said:

A few things:

Don’t wait for better memory:

  • Improving memory is possible for some people; not everyone
  • Whether or not it’s possible for you, you need to communicate now
  • Communication shouldn’t wait for cognitive changes
  • It’s important to make strategies that work with the cognitive abilities you have now

Meanwhile, you might be able to make some of your external memory faster. Here are a few possible ways of doing that:

Write things on your hand or a wrist band:

  • Looking at your hand only takes a second
  • This might work well for remembering what food you want to order, or what you want to buy
  • Or in general terms what you wanted to talk about
  • There are also disposable paper wristbands you can buy to put notes on
  • That works similarly, without having to write stuff on your hand

Put some information on your phone’s lock screen, eg:

  • Write something in your notes app
  • Take a screenshot
  • Make that screenshot your lock screen wallpaper
  • This means the information is available immediately once you get out your phone

Cheat sheets:

  • If there are things you consistently need to know but can’t remember, making pages with that information and putting them in particular places might help
  • Eg, for remembering what a store has
  • Or remembering what questions you’re likely to be asked
  • Or lists of people who are likely to be in particular places

Optimizing your notebook:

  • Eg: If there is information you need frequently, it might be worth putting it on dedicated pages with color-coded tabs
  • It also might be worth using something like a three-ring binder so that you can put information you need soonest at the front
  • Or even *on* the front, if you get a three-ring binder that has a space to put in a cover sheet on the front

Communication boards or apps:

  • Using communication boards or a picture-based AAC app might help too
  • Communication aids aren’t just for generating speech, they can also be for cognitive prompting reminding you what it’s possible to say
  • Making pages for particular situations might help you to communicate faster
  • You’d still have to open the page, but it might result in less hunting around for information once you get there
  • Having a page with a few options might make it easier to remember and process things
  • Associating images with things you’re trying to remember might make them easier to remember
  • If you keep the symbols in a consistent place and touch them some while you communicate, muscle memory might also help you to remember things
  • (Even practicing with boards in private without using an app to communicate directly might make it possible to use muscle memory to prompt yourself)
  • Proloquo2Go might work well for this
  • (Or maybe even something like Custom Boards, although that uses more childish symbols and that could be a problem)

It also might help to be more open about your memory difficulties:

  • Sometimes being open about how bad your memory is can help
  • If you don’t tell people what you’re doing, they might not be able to tell the difference between using external memory and ignoring them
  • (Especially if you’re looking at a phone; they might think you are facebooking or something)
  • They also might be trying to help, and might not realize that it’s being anti-helpful
  • If you tell people what’s going on and what would help you, *some* people will do the right thing
  • (Not all. But enough that it’s often worth it)
  • That also can allow you to ask people things that you don’t remember

Eg:

  • “I’m sorry, my memory is bad — could you remind me who you are?”
  • “Give me a second — I need to check my notebook.”
  • “I don’t remember when that’s happening — I need to check my calendar on my phone.”
  • “I actually get really confused when people try to tell me what they think I want — I’ll be able to find it faster if I check my phone”.

Also, if you’re approaching people and they’re walking away, it might help to change the order in which you do things to make it go faster from their perspective, eg:

  • Get out your notebook
  • Turn it to the right page
  • Put your finger on the piece of information you need to remember
  • Then go up to them and ask for help

tl;dr If you have memory issues and rely on external memory aids, there may be things you can do to use them more quickly.