What Are Cognitive Skills?
Cognitive skills are the core mental abilities that enable us to learn effectively.They support the ability to read, comprehend, remember,
interpret, and analyze information. Well functioning cognitive skills are essential for academic performance because they underpin higher order thinking and acquisition of knowledge. When a child’s cognitive skills are weak, academic learning is often a struggle. When a child’s cognitive skills are strengthened his/her overall learning ability is improved.
How Weak Cognitive Skills Impact Learning
At the root of most learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADD and ADHD is a significant deficit in one or more cognitive skill areas. The impact of deficits vary, but all share the common result of creating challenges with academic learning.
Attention enables a student to stay on task for a sustained period of time, continue working in the presence of distractions, and handle more than one task at a time. Attention deficits impact all academic areas.
Working Memory enables a student to retain information for a short time while using or processing it. Inability to retain information long enough to handle it correctly impacts learning ability.
Long-Term Memory is the ability to store information and retrieve it at will for later use. It is an essential skill across all academic disciplines.
Processing Speed is the rate at which the brain processes information. Slow processing speed may result in losing information held in working memory before it can be utilized.
Visual Processing is the ability to comprehend, analyze, and think in visual images. It involves visual discrimination which is seeing the differences in color, shape, size, and distance of objects, and visualization, the ability to create mental images. Weakness in this area makes academic subjects, which entail seeing a concept or object in one’s mind, particularly difficult.
Auditory Processing is the ability to perceive, analyze and comprehend what is heard.It is an essential underlying skill in learning to read and spell. It includes auditory discrimination, the ability to hear the subtle differences between sounds and phonemic awareness the ability to blend, segment, and manipulate sounds within a word. Weak auditory processing skills usually result in profound difficulty with reading and spelling.
Logic and Reasoning skills are used to reason, prioritize and plan. When they are weak, problem solving, math, and comprehension will be difficult.
Cognitive Skills Training Options
Cognitive skills training focuses on strengthening processing deficits in order to enhance overall learning ability. There are varied options ranging from specialty software to individual coaching to accomplish this goal.
- Software programs like Brainware Safari, Brain Skills, and Brainbuilder use computer games and exercises to strengthen cognitive skills.
- Audiblox uses a kit of manipulatives with prescribed exercises to target key cognitive skills. Audiblox can be done individually or for an entire classroom.
- Learning RX Centers offer a full service option. They employ cognitive skills testing to identify deficits and design an individualized plan. The child is then scheduled for regular sessions, over a fixed period of time, during which he/she is guided through a series of non-academic drills and exercises by a Learning RX professional.
Cognitive Skills Training Programs – Many academic struggles are the result of weaknesses in one or more of the basic cognitive skills which support learning. Cognitive skills training works to strengthen weak cognitive skills so that academic learning ability is enhanced.
Cognitive Skills Training Aids Academic Performance – At the core of most learning disabilities is a processing deficit in one or more cognitive skill areas. Cognitive skills training focuses on strengthening these underlying deficits so that overall academic learning ability can be improved.