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What Causes Memory Problems in Children?

Noticing a memory problem in your child or teen can be incredibly unnerving. You may wonder if their memory lapses are normal for their developmental stage or if a glitch in their memory signals a more serious problem.

Rather than worrying about the possibilities, connect with our team at THINK Neurology for Kids. We specialize in determining the cause of memory problems. Then we can work with you and your child to overcome the challenges and restore their memory.

Read on to learn about the most common causes of memory problems in children.

Developmental and intellectual disabilities

Developmental and intellectual disabilities like ADHD, autism, Down syndrome, Rett syndrome, and developmental language disorder commonly cause memory problems. Though some of these conditions may affect long-term and visual memory, they most often disrupt working memory.

Working memory gives children (and adults) the ability to hold information in their mind long enough to complete a task or make decisions. This type of memory only lasts a few seconds and has a limited capacity. Most people can only hold a few pieces of information in their working memory at one time.

Without a strong working memory, your child struggles to pay attention. They have difficulties organizing their time, planning activities, and taking steps to reach a goal. You may notice that they can’t follow instructions and they often don’t complete homework assignments or chores.

Concussions and traumatic brain injuries

A concussion and other more serious traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur when a sudden impact makes the brain move. The brain goes in one direction, bounces against the skull, and then snaps back in the opposite direction.

Your child or teen can suffer a mild to severe TBI after a direct blow to their head. But they can also end up with a concussion after a strong impact to their body.

Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of TBIs. In most cases, TBIs affect short-term memory, so your child may not remember what happened right before their injury. 

Most children heal quickly after a concussion, but even with a mild TBI memory loss can continue for weeks or months.

Medical and mental health disorders

Many different medical conditions and mental health disorders affect short- and long-term memory. These are only a few examples:

Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) and Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) cause rapid and severe symptoms of OCD. They’re also associated with a noticeable loss of non-verbal memory.

Childhood trauma

Any type of trauma can trigger memory loss, whether it’s in the form of a threat to a child’s safety, ongoing encounters with a bully, or physical or emotional abuse. But this type of memory problem may not represent true memory loss.

In other types of memory loss, the brain doesn’t store or retain the memory. When children can’t remember traumatic events, there’s a good chance the memory is logged in their brain but they can’t retrieve it. This is called a dissociative disorder.

Everyone occasionally experiences dissociation. For example, daydreaming or getting lost in a good book or movie causes a sense of dissociation or mild disconnection from your surroundings.

Trauma causes deeper dissociation that serves a purpose: It protects children and teens by allowing them to forget about overwhelming, frightening, horrifying, and painful events or feelings.

If you’re concerned about your child’s memory, book an appointment online or call one of our offices in The Woodlands, Katy, or Cypress, Texas, today.

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