What are cognitive skills?

ANSWER: Cognitive skills are the basic mental abilities we use to think, study and learn. They include a wide variety of mental processes used to analyze sounds and images, recall information from memory, make associations between different pieces of information, and maintain concentration on particular tasks.

Cognitive skills can be individually identified and measured, and cognitive skill strength and efficiency correlates directly with a student's ease of learning.

Understanding individual cognitive skills helps you see how they impact learning. These skills can be identified in the following subcategories.

Processing Speed: The efficiency in which the brain processes the data it receives. Faster processing speed leads to more efficient thinking and learning.

Auditory Processing: This is the specific skill of processing sounds. We break this skill down into three measurable areas that greatly impact reading and spelling. These are:

  • analyzing sounds,
  • segmenting sounds, and
  • blending sounds.

For example, when you hear a word, you are required to hear the individual and blended sounds that make that word unique and recognizable. When you read a word, you must recreate the individual and blended sounds to form a word in your mind or to speak it. When a word you read is unfamiliar, you must decode it and correctly assign sounds to the letter or letter combinations. This skill is called Word Attack.

Auditory skills are essential if a student is to read, spell or learn new words or concepts well.

Visual Processing: This is the ability to receive and manipulate visual information. Puzzles are a great illustration in the function of visual processing. Visualization (creating mental images) also greatly effects reading comprehension and long term memory.

Memory: Memory skills fall into two broad categories:

  • Long term storage and recall memory, and
  • short term working memory.

Long term memory becomes the "library" of facts upon which we build our concepts and accumulate knowledge.

Working memory handles the dynamic job of holding data particulars during the learning experience while we are receiving multiple bits of new information.

We then combine and process that information to create new concepts and understanding.

Logic and Reasoning: These skills are necessary to create those new and likely relationships between information we take in as we learn. We use these skills to compare this new data with recalled facts stored in long term memory. Problem solving and planning are also greatly impacted by logic and reasoning skills.

Attention Skills: The last broad area we focus training on is attention. Attention breaks out into a few areas:

  • Sustained Attention is the ability to stay focused and on task.
  • Divided Attention is the ability to focus adequately on several important points simultaneously.
  • Selected Attention skills enable a student to quickly sort and discard distractions or irrelevant incoming information and remain focused on the important information or instruction.

It is not difficult to see how these apply to learning situations, and how, if they are weak or missing, they would hinder learning.

If you or your child is suffering from one of more weak cognitive skill, learning will be difficult or near impossible.

Contact one of our Center locations to learn more:

Tyler Location
225 E. Amherst, Suite B, Tyler, TX 75701
Phone: (903) 534-0700

Longview Location
1809 NW Loop 281, Suite 107, Longview, TX 75604
Phone: (903) 295-4044