Memory and organisation

Trying to remember discussions, organise work and cope with messages can be difficult for many adults with dyslexia. Portable recorders whether digital, disk or tape based can help but one has to remember to go back to the data that has been put into them. The same applies to using electronic personal organisers or Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). The appointments have to be made and alarms set. However, these machines can provide accurate addresses and telephone numbers once the data is correctly in place and they can often be synchronised with a computer database and/or diary. They have memo pads or notebooks that can be searched by keywords and these can act like post-it notes. Some have complete mini versions of Microsoft Office in the form of Windows CE.

There is a choice between the palm versions that have a screen and a pen and use handwriting recognition systems or onscreen keyboards (e.g. Handspring Visor or Sony Clie), Additional portable keyboards can be added to most palm organisers. Some versions have coloured screens and others are backlit. Both these functions can help to clarify text, most have the facility to enlarge the font and change the style.

The amount and type of batteries used, Plus the amount of memory available are issues that need to be checked. Coloured screens and more powerful operating systems offering many extra features (that may not be used) can cause a drain on power and processing speed. Most will also connect to the internet and many will soon be linked or integrated with mobile phones such as the Nokia 9210.

On a computer the desktop screen can be arranged so that notes are posted up using Microsoft Outlook and calendars can be used as desktop wallpaper such as Visual Day Planner, one of many shareware diary programs. Important documents can be put into the Start-up menu of Windows so that they appear when the computer is turned on and databases can be designed as reference guides, bibliographies, etc. These tools maybe used to form lists that can be checked off and for planning ahead with tutors or employers. These ideas may help one to keep to deadlines and improve organisation and time management skills. However, in many offices and homes there are monitors adorned with sticky post-it notes, suggesting that high-tech is not always the preferred option!

Colour coding strategies work well for many people who habitually forget to bring the relevant paperwork to a class or meeting. A common strategy for students would be designating a colour for a subject being studied, e.g. Blue for Biology, Mauve for Maths, and placing all work for that subject in the correctly coloured folder and placing stickers on textbooks. If the timetable shows Biology then all the blue items are taken to class. In business, folders can be coded to show priority, or to connect data relating to a given project. Coloured post-it notes and highlighters can be used on wall charts and calendars.

Searching on the internet will provide the surfer with many websites that show students how to memorise subjects more easily and employees how to work more efficiently. Most of the quizzes and games are based on old-fashioned auditory or visual memory games such as pelmanism. The program Mastering Memory also provides the user with a chance to practise memory skills using both visual and auditory modes.

Wordswork not only has advice about spelling and other reading and writing skills but it also includes a section about learning styles that affect the way things are remembered and aims to make the most of a person’s strengths rather than playing to their weaknesses. It is important to be aware that there are auditory, visual and tactile methods for remembering items and smell can also prove a very efficient reminder. The Nessy BrainBooster program also offers study skills advice.