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What Are Cognitive Skills and Why Do We Need Them?


By Dr. Donna

What does the term ‘cognitive skills’ mean? Do you understand the term well enough to explain it to someone? And what does the term ‘cognitive skills training’ mean?

Cognitive skills are the skills needed for learning, remembering and thinking. Some examples are:

Auditory processing is the ability to hear sounds as they really are – and differentiate them from others. For example, when you hear a bird song, can you hear the individual notes in the song? Can you differentiate that bird song from another? If so, you have good auditory processing skills. In schoolwork, good auditory processing abilities allows children to excel in phonics and hear what the teacher says. This leads to the ability to read fluently.

Short-term memory is the ability to remember things temporarily. Scientists believe that short-term memory may last 12 seconds, 30 seconds or even up to 600 seconds. For children, an example of short-term memory is reading a sentence or two and remembering what it says. Mentally repeating something, also called rehearsal, keeps the information in short-term memory.

Long-term memory is the ability to remember things indefinitely. It depends on the ability to encode, store and retrieve it. When a fact stays in short-term memory a long time, then it’s more likely to become long-term memory. For example, when a child is taught how to remember a list of items, he can increase his chances of remembering the list tomorrow by focusing on it repetitively. Sleeping well is essential to boosting long-term memory. Sleep deprivation affects the ability to consolidate the information; new memories are recalled better after sleep.

Processing speed is the ability to process easy cognitive tasks automatically without having to actually think through them. Tests to determine processing speed include the following:

  • Math problems
  • Reasoning tests with a time deadline
  • Comprehension of text read silently
  • Copying of sentences correctly
  • Identifying visual patterns when scanning an image
  • Reading a list of words very rapidly

Attention is the act of noticing something and deciding that it’s important or interesting. Someone’s attention skills might depend on their ability to remain focused on a task even with distractions, and their ability to multitask and remember information.

So what are cognitive skills? They’re the basic thought processes everyone needs to develop. Now imagine what would happen if you increased your brain’s cognitive skills in auditory processing, short-term and long-term memory, processing speed, and attention. Would you feel more alive? Would you feel more secure and confident? Would you complete tasks faster than ever? Yes!

You can only get smarter when cognitive skills are improved. And that’s what programs that help children with learning disabilities start out with – boosting basic cognitive skills. Gemm Learning offers a program called Fast ForWord that helps children and adults develop cognitive skills. You or your child can start seeing improvements in everyday tasks by building a strong foundation.


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