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Learning and Attention Disorders

Medical students and physicians with both previously undiagnosed and well-documented learning and attention disorders are coming to the attention of medical professionals and state medical societies. The following two tables, adapted from the work of Cheryl Weinstein, Ph.D., identify memory and attention tools that can help professionals manage learning/attention disorders.

What are executive functions?

  • Planning
  • Prioritization
  • Organization
  • Reasoning
  • Sustaining a Task
  • Cognitive Flexibility
  • Shifting from one task to another
  • Inhibition
  • Attention (Alerting, orienting)

Attention Strategies for Individuals with LD and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity (ADHD)

  • Talk to yourself to focus attention
  • Write down essential information
  • Ask for repetition of instructions
  • Ask speakers to present information more slowly
  • Break down tasks into small, simple steps
  • Learn to identify and avoid overload
  • Take rest periods
  • Work on detailed tasks when maximally alert
  • Writing in charts when patient is present
  • Avoid lengthy monotonous tasks
  • Work in a quiet space
  • Try to do one thing at a time
  • Practice learning to divide attention
  • Learn negotiation skills
  • Be honest with team members about cognitive weaknesses to avoid communication failures.
Source:  Weinstein, 2008. p. 443.

Memory Strategies

  • Establish clear expectations in advance about what is to be accomplished
  • Outline the sequence of a task
  • Organize/categorize/chunk information.
  • Repeat instructions to make certain messages are understood.
  • Establish a routine doing the same task in the same order and on the same 
  • Use a memory notebook/hand held computer
  • Ask for power point presentations of lectures/rounds.
  • Ask for minutes of meeting
  • Develop cues to aid recall
Source:  Weinstein, 2008, p. 443.
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