What are Cognitive Skills?
The phrase ‘cognitive skills’ describes a wide range of mental abilities – all of which are involved in what enables a human being to think. These include skills related to learning, planning, reading and problem solving – all of which are examples of high-level cognitive processes.
Other cognitive skills serve as the ‘building blocks’ of these more complex processes, and include such abilities as attention, concentration, working memory, information processing, sorting, categorization, and many more.
What is ‘Cognitive Skills Training’?
All cognitive skills are ‘hard-wired’ in the brain – so as a rule, children are natural learners. They naturally use their brain’s skills of attention, concentration, memory and more – even without being taught.
But consider children with cognitive deficits – for example children with ADD/ADHD, learning disorders or executive function disorder. These children struggle with basic cognitive skills that others use naturally, with no conscious effort. We need to help children with cognitive deficits strengthen these basic skills through cognitive skills training. However, because of the nature of these cognitive skills – improving them requires a form of training, rather than the more complex but familiar process of learning.
The difference between training and learning is like the difference between doing situps and learning how to swim. The basic goal of situps is to strengthen the abdominal muscles. It is easy to learn how to do situps – but they’re hard to do over time. In comparison, learning how to swim is a slower and more complex process. However once you know how, it’s easy to do – as long as you have strong muscles!
Training cognitive skills is like “situps for the brain” – the exercises themselves are not hard to learn, and can even be deceptively simple. However, by doing these exercises in a structured way – like in Cognitive Training Programs – it is possible to activate the brain in such a way that it ‘strengthens’ its cognitive ‘muscles’. Which is another way of saying ‘Cognitive Skills Training’.
Is this Backed by Research?
Yes! There is much debate over the types, duration and length of training required in order to see substantial improvements. However, additional research continues to discover the great benefits to be gained from cognitive skills training.
One program recommended both by academic research and parents of ADHD children is the brain fitness software by AttenGo, which is based on a neuro-cognitive training program. By training three to five times a week on a regular basis, it is possible to provide professional cognitive skills training and help children overcome their cognitive deficits.