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Teen with Photographic Memory

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter has a photographic memory she can look at a textbook for a minute and six months later in an exam she can quote the textbook word for word even if she hasn't seen it since she first looked at it. Teachers tell her off for this and she is easily frustrated she spends most of her day bored and does nothing. Teachers don't like her and give her low national curriculum grades because they don't want her to show off to other students.

She scored 141 on the CATS test she is 14 and I would like to know if there is any way that I can stretch her myself because everything I have tried she has seen before and knows the answer to already. Her school refuses to extend her as it is a catholic school and they believe everyone should have an equal chance. Please help me I am desperate!

A: I am really surprised at the behaviour of the teachers here. In fact, I am surprised that she has not burnt out with all the holding back at school. This is a very special child and I cannot understand the reason teachers are not recognising it and helping her maximise her potential further. This is really sad.

A photographic memory, medically called an eidetic memory, is rare. It is about exceptional skill in duplicating a visual memory. It has been indicated in research that almost 50% of children are born with eidetic memory. One reason is that they have less clutter in general and fewer visual memories in their brains than older children and adults. As we age there is a tendency for us to have more and more stored visual memories with new images filtered through the old. This process affects how we see new images. However, when children go to school, apparently only 2-15% retain eidetic memory. In your daughter's case, this is different - the ability to retain her photographic memory.

There is no solution in the school as I can see and I wonder how she survived this far without giving up. The only way out I see here is to get her out of the school to a school that would recognise her memory potential and help her go as far as she can. I hope you are desperate enough to get her out of that school, otherwise you would be holding her back.

You could also do a search on how to educate her further to enhance her memory. She needs meaningful and purposeful activities to stimulate her mind much more than simply regurgitating facts from the textbooks based on memory alone. Enrichment is great to learn to apply what has been learnt. I really believe the school is not stretching her further and she needs a new environment which is more challenging. Please act as soon as you can. Best of luck!


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