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Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA) - Clinical Research

The AWMA has also been used in students with Dyslexia, Specific Language Impairments, Developmental Coordination Disorder, Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder, Developmental Dyscalculia, and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. It provides a useful ‘snapshot’ of how their impairments and working memory skills impact learning.

The practical implications of these findings are that educators have access to a tool to facilitate identification of poor working memory skills in children. The AWMA provides a detailed profile of working memory skills necessary for targeting early intervention strategies

Reference: Alloway, T.P. (2010). Improving Working Memory: Supporting Students’ Learning. London: Sage Press.

Gifted | ADHD | Specific Language Impairment | Developmental Co-ordination Disorder | Autistic Spectrum Disorder | Heaing impaired






A comparison of working memory (using the AWMA) and IQ scores (WISC) in gifted students in the UK. The working memory performance was superior in the high ability students compared to the low and average ability groups, though the relationship between working memory and IQ weakens as a function of increasing ability.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. & Elsworth, S. (2010). A comparison of IQ and working memory across high, average, and low ability students. Manuscript submitted






A comparison of working memory profiles of children with ADHD in the UK and South Africa indicate that both samples had verbal and visuo-spatial working memory deficits, with intact short-term memory skills.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. & Cockcroft, K. (in press). Working memory in ADHD: A comparison of British and South African children. Journal of Attention Disorders.


In a study comparing students with low-attentional skills versus high-attentional skills, working memory measures emerged as the best predictors of group membership. These findings provide evidence that there is a relationship between working memory and behavioural inattention.

Reference: Scope, Empson, & McHale (2010). Executive function in children with high and low attentional skills: Correspondences between behavioural and cognitive profiles. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 28, 293-305.


Students with inattention problems have similar working memory profiles to those with a Combined ADHD diagnosis. However, the Inattentive students had higher short-term memory scores.

Reference: Alloway, T.P., Elliott, J., & Place, M. (2010). Investigating the Relationship Between Attention and Working Memory in Clinical and Community Samples. Child Neuropsychology, 16, 242-254.


Students with poor working memory, including those with a clinical diagnosis of ADHD, performed worse on measures of attainment (WIAT).

Reference: Alloway, T.P., Gathercole, S.E., & Elliott, J. (2010). Examining the link between working memory behavior and academic attainment in children with ADHD. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 52, 632-636.


In a study comparing students with ADHD versus a control group, visuo-spatial working memory measures emerged as the best predictors of group membership.

Reference: Holmes, J., Gathercole, S.E., Place, M., Alloway, T.P., & Elliott, J. (2010). An assessment of the diagnostic utility of executive function assessments in the identification of ADHD in children. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 15, 37-43.




Specific Language Impairment (SLI)

SLI is associated with selective deficits in verbal short-term and working memory (measured using the AWMA).

Reference: Archibald & Joanisse (2009). On the Sensitivity and Specificity of Nonword Repetition and Sentence Recall to Language and Memory Impairments in Children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52, 899-914.


A comparison of the links between working memory and attainment revealed the following: visuo-spatial working memory was linked to numeracy in SLI children; all of the memory measures were linked to at least one attainment measure in those with DCD.

Reference: Alloway, T.P., & Archibald, L.M. (2008). Working Memory and Learning in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder and Specific Language Impairment. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41, 251-262.





Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD)

DCD is associated with selective deficits in visuo-spatial short-term and working memory. Their combination of motor difficulties and poor working memory results in learning difficulties that are independent of IQ scores.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. (2007). Working Memory, Reading and Mathematical Skills in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 96, 20-36.


In a comparison study, students with DCD had a depressed performance in all working memory tests, with particularly low scores in visuo-spatial memory tasks; students with ADHD performed within age-expected levels in short-term memory but had a pervasive working memory deficit that impacted both verbal and visuo-spatial domains.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. (2011). A comparison of working memory profiles in children with ADHD and DCD. Child Neuropsychology, 21, 1-12.


A comparison of students with learning difficulties and DCD found the following: students with learning difficulties had poor verbal working memory; students with DCD struggled in both verbal and visuo-spatial working memory tasks.

Reference: Alloway, T.P. & Temple, K.J.  (2007). A Comparison of Working Memory Profiles and Learning in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder and Moderate Learning Difficulties. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21, 473-487.


This study investigated the impact of exercise-based training in students with DCD, and the AWMA was used to measure pre- and post-training scores.

Reference: Alloway, T.P., & Warner, C. (2008).The Effect of Task-Specific Training on Learning and Memory in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 107, 273-280.




Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

In a group of high-functioning ASD children, poor performance was specific to verbal short-term memory tasks, with scores in the typical range for verbal working memory and visuo-spatial memory tasks.

Reference: Alloway, T.P., Rajendran, G., & Archibald, L.M. (2009). Working memory profiles of children with developmental disorders. Journal of Learning Difficulties, 42, 372-382.




Hearing Impaired

In a South African study, hearing children scored significantly higher than the deaf children on virtually all components of visuospatial short-term and working memory. The implication of this finding is that teachers need to assist the academic progress of deaf learners in the inclusive classroom by reducing the demands on working memory.

Reference: Cockcroft; Dhana; & Greenop. (2010). Working memory functioning in deaf primary school children: Implications for inclusive education. Education as Change, 14, 201-211.




Key Information


AWMA provides a practical and convenient way for teachers and psychologists to screen for significant working memory problems from childhood to early adulthood


Dr Tracy Packiam Alloway

Publication Year


Age Range

4 to 22 years


Individual - Screener: 5 to 7 mins; Short form: 10 to 15 mins; Long form: 45 mins

Qualification Code


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