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"You Never Said That!" Auditory Memory Dysfunction

Posted by Matthew Turton on Thu, Nov 08, 2012 @ 02:45 PM

This is the fourth in a series of blogs about six different areas of Memory.

Auditory Reversals and dysfunction lead to arguments and fightsRecently, I started a series of articles looking at six different types of memory and how they work. From elementary students to adults, many suffer from memory weaknesses without realizing it. Breakthroughs assesses six different types of memory and this article is the 4th in a series of blogs about each type, and how they affect our lives. First we looked at two types of Visual Memory. In the last two weeks we introduced two types of auditory memory. I highly recommend you read the two blogs introducing Auditory Memory if you haven't yet, since today's blog is based on the information discussed there.

Have you ever felt like your child must not be paying attention because they seem to remember a completely different conversation? Have you ever had your child or spouse tell you that you said something you’re sure you never said? Does your child ‘make things up’ and seem convinced they’re right?

Auditory Reversal

These are all symptoms of a far too common scenario called Auditory Reversal. An auditory reversal occurs when someone’s long term auditory retrieval is stronger than their long term auditory storage. In the diagram below we can see that this person’s storage is quite weak, coming in at a stanine of two, or the 11th percentile*. (see footnote*)Auditory Memory Reversal can cause people to think they remember things that didn't happen

The long term auditory retrieval system functions like a magnet. The amount of information it pulls out of auditory storage is determined by how strong the retrieval magnet is.  In this case, while storage is weak, retrieval is fairly strong at a stanine six or high average. In this scenario, the child will occasionally, when remembering auditory information such as instructions or a conversation, pull out additional pieces of information that were not part of the original conversation.

These additional pieces of information are usually loosely related in some way and relevant to the conversation. Let's say you told your child that they could go to a friend’s house to play, stay for dinner and then come right home. If they have an auditory reversal, there is a good chance they would be in trouble for disobeying or lying that evening because they wouldn’t follow through on the given instructions. They may even believe that you told them they could stay after dinner to watch a movie.

Real Life Consequences of Cognitive Dysfunction

parentarguechild resized 600When I describe this scenario to parents whose children have an auditory reversal, they often look at each other with shock and guilt. How many times have they disciplined their child for being disobedient or lying? All along, it was simply that the child’s brain was feeding them mis-information.

One of the possible side effects of poor auditory memory skills, such as an auditory reversal, is the development of disrespect for authority. Children and teens are faced with adults who (in their own mind) keep changing the rules, what the instructions were, and don’t even know what they said! Imagine the frustration of getting in trouble for years for things you don’t believe are your fault.

I worked with a couple, both of whom had auditory reversals. You can imagine the arguments they had on a daily basis as neither one of them could accurately remember what the other had said, but were equally certain that their own version was the correct version. Or, imagine working for a manager who thought he had assigned you a project, but in fact had never mentioned it to you! His employee turnover rate and satisfaction improved dramatically once we were able to help him eliminate his auditory reversal.

There is Hope

Development is as simple as assessing which brain skills are causing the problems and targeting and developing the ones that are weak. At Breakthroughs we have two programs specifically designed to develop poor memory skills. In the scenario of an auditory reversal the Long Term Auditory Storage must be developed to the point where it is balanced with the Long Term Auditory Retrieval. (In this case, to be "balanced" means that the storage score must be stronger than the retrieval magnet to ensure against reversals.) Once this is achieved and auditory memory is significantly more accurate, the behaviours associated with an auditory reversal will diminish. If you think you, or someone you know, might have an auditory reversal, I highly recommend you contact us for assessment and therapy. Imagine how different life could be.

Percentile is a term frequently used in scoring assessments. 11th percentile means that in a room with 100 people, this person would be 11th from the bottom.

MT Headshot   3inAs a child who struggled to overcome learning disabilities himself. Matthew always knew he wanted to help other children know they weren’t stupid. Having now logged over 15,000 hours working with children and adults with learning disabilities he shares his experience of what it’s like on both sides of learning disabilities. Being Vice President of Breakthroughs, a husband and father of a two year old son, Matthew’s not quite sure what free time is, but when he finds it he enjoys playing soccer and photography.

Topics: parenting, memory, auditory memory, behaviour

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