Short term memory

poor memory or sensory processing struggles?

Maybe these are the same thing?
All my life I have been accused of not paying attention, of not listening when I was spoken to, of not trying, of not caring to try. All of my life I thought I was just lazy and careless. I was told this from an early age by adults surrounding me, my parents and other family members, teachers, employers.
I was used to exasperated sighs, eye rolls, frustrated lectures and threats telling me to “shape up”, “try harder”, “pay attention”, “or else”. Sometimes “or else” was punishment, failing grades, dismissal from a job.
I cared desperately, I wanted to please and I struggled to pay attention, to try hard, to listen carefully, to do better, to do more, and in many ways I failed.

I took the labels to heart.
I was simply not meeting expectations, I was not doing well, I was supposed to do better, and in all those things according to the folks around me, I failed.

Imagine my surprise when my neurology was tested at age 68. I learned my sensory processing was not “normal”. I had very little ability to understand spoken words or to understand visual input such as demonstrations, videos, movies, tv, live conversations, or anything in motion, in “real time”.

In talking with several people online lately, they have told me how they struggle with poor memory. They have been told they have almost no memory, yet these are autistic people who communicate very well using printed words and who have great language skills, large vocabularies, and who can discuss all manner of issues in depth.
I have been thinking that they have been told they have poor memories because they were tested using one of the standard psychological tests in which the test administrator gives a series of words and asks to have them repeated by the subject, who is then told to remember those series because they will be asked about them later.
Later in the verbal tests, the test administrator then asks the subject to repeat the series of words given them. Transition from one test series to another is unexpected and performance is wanted immediately without hesitation.
I always fail those tests. They require me to process audio and visual input and retain it using only my ability (or lack thereof) with those two senses. And my ability to find and store information recieved through sight or hearing is very very poor.

Somewhere along the line I was lucky enough to learn that if I wrote down anything I wanted to remember, or if I read something, I had almost total recall.
Once I was old enough to be assigned reading classwork, I was able to keep up with class and to out perform almost all other class members where assigned reading was required.

Now I know why this is so. My neurology will not process spoken or visual experiences well. But my ability to understand the written word is unimpaired. If you have been told that you have a poor memory, try this. Write down anything you want to remember. If you can recall it later, then maybe you do not have a poor memory after all, you may have struggles with neurological processing of information you receive through audio or visual means.
Not all of us are lucky enough to have the gift of words. Some of us have other neurological processing issues making it a struggle to read or write, etc. I get it.
Keep looking for different ways to do the tasks required of you. Using only one sense or ability in one way might be almost impossible, but by changing modes of input and self expression, you might uncover a whole new way of doing things.
I learned through trial and error long before I learned of my autism that reading and writing were what I understood best. Until my autism diagnosis and neurological testing, I did not understand why that was so.

I hope I have perhaps opened insights into the many ways we can approach any given struggle in our lives. There is no one set way of accomplishing a task or a project, there are multiple ways that could be used to reach a goal. If one way is blocked due to our neurological setup, other ways can be looked for and new ways may be found. I wish my parents and teachers, employers and co- workers had understood this earlier in my life. I wish I had known. It might not be too late for you to apply these ideas to your own life or that of somebody you know, who struggles.

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