Visual Digit Span

Improve Your Processing Skills: Processing Activities

Visual Digit Span Forward - Video Instructions

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Visual Digit Span Forward - Instructions

This activity works to improve visual sequential processing and short-term memory. It may be used for both children and adults.

Start off by testing the visual digit spans to establish a baseline. Put sequences of numbers on note cards. Use white 3x5 or larger cards and black numerals, 0-9, that are approximately ½ inch in height. Another option is to use a dry erase board to write the number sequences. Show the individual the number sequence for 3 full seconds, instructing him to look at the numbers from left to right, one at a time, then remove the card and have him attempt to recall the sequence. Although it is okay for him to say the sequence aloud, it is critical that you do NOT say the sequence to him, thereby giving auditory input.

Begin with an easy sequence that you feel confident he will be able to repeat. If he gets it correct, provide him with a different sequence that has an additional number. Continue to give him digit spans with more numbers until he makes an error. Give him one more sequence at the level at which he missed; if he gets it correct, try going another level higher. The highest level at which he was able to give you two correct responses is their baseline. For example, you might start with a sequence of 3 digits. If he gets it correct, you would then give a sequence of 4. If he was correct again, give a sequence of 5 digits. If he repeats the sequence of 5 incorrectly, give him another sequence of 5. If he misses the second 5, the baseline is 4.

Now that you have established a baseline, you are ready to work on the activity. We have discovered that most individuals do better if we work within a range of digits. For example, if the individual's baseline is 6 you should present sequences of 5 digits, 6, and initial 7s. As he starts getting more sequences of 7s correct, add more 7s and fewer 5s and 6s. At the point where he is getting many 7s correct, give three 7s in a row; and if he is able to get two of the three correct, move the baseline up to 7. With a baseline of 7 you would now be presenting 6s, 7s, and initial 8s. If you are using index cards, you will need to make many different sequence cards so that the individual does not memorize the sequences.

With this activity intensity is vital. You need to do whatever is necessary to get the individual's intensity level as high as possible. Establishing competition between individuals can often help increase intensity and should be encouraged. Many people also need outside reinforcers. Hearty praise might carry them through a few sessions, but is not always enough. It is important to remember that improving sequential processing is going to impact virtually every aspect of an individual's life, so think big. If on a scale of 1 to 10 the individual's intensity level falls below a 5, then he would be better off taking a nap; but if you can get his intensity level up to 8-10, then he will have better accuracy and increase his digit spans more quickly. Also, even though the listener's intensity is most important, it is necessary for the person implementing the activity to also have high intensity.

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