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Brain & Cognitive Skills

Brain and Cognitive Skills Training

A study by the Department of Education showed that 69 out of 100 fourth graders in the United States are below grade level in Reading. That same study showed that 71 out of 100 eighth graders are below grade level in math, and 76 out of 100 high school seniors are below grade level in writing.

Weak underlying cognitive skills may be the reason why a person struggles to read or learn at a even a basic level. If this is the cause of the learning difficulty, it can be corrected. Research has shown that the brain never stops changing. If you or your child experience learning or reading problems, brain or cognitive skills training can be your most effective choice to eliminate the cause of the struggle, and move on to learning and reading success.

Understanding individual cognitive skills helps us understand how they impact learning. These skills include:

Attention Skills: A student’s ability to attend to incoming information can be observed, broken down into a variety of sub-skills, and improved through properly coordinated training. We train and strengthen the three primary types of attention:

  • Sustained Attention:The ability to remain focused and on task, and the amount of time we can focus.
  • Selective Attention:The ability to remain focused and on task while being subjected to related and unrelated sensory input (distractions).
  • Divided Attention:The ability to remember information while performing a mental operation and attending to two things at once (multi-tasking).

Memory:The ability to store and recall information:

Long-Term Memory:The ability to recall information that was stored in the past. Long-term memory is critical for spelling, recalling facts on tests, and comprehension. Weak long-term memory skills create symptoms like forgetting names and phone numbers, and doing poorly on unit tests.
Short-Term / Working Memory:The ability to apprehend and hold information in immediate awareness while simultaneously performing a mental operation. Students with short-term memory problems may need to look several times at something before copying, have problems following multi-step instructions, or need to have information repeated often.

Logic and Reasoning:The ability to reason, form concepts, and solve problems using unfamiliar information or novel procedures. Deductive reasoning extends this problem-solving ability to draw conclusions and come up with solutions by analyzing the relationships between given conditions. Students with underdeveloped logic and reasoning skills will generally struggle with word math problems and other abstract learning challenges. Symptoms of skill weaknesses in this area show up as questions like, “I don’t get this”, “I need help…this is so hard”, or “What should I do first?”

 Auditory Processing: The ability to analyze, blend, and segment sounds. Auditory processing is a crucial underlying skill for reading and spelling success, and is the number one skill needed for learning to read. Weakness in any of the auditory processing skills will greatly hinder learning to read, reading fluency, and comprehension. Students with auditory processing weakness also typically lose motivation to read.

Visual Processing: The ability to perceive, analyze, and think in visual images. This includes visualization, which is the ability to create a picture in your mind of words or concepts. Students who have problems with visual processing may have difficulty following instructions, reading maps, doing word math problems, and comprehending.

Processing Speed: The ability to perform simple or complex cognitive tasks quickly. This skill also measures the ability of the brain to work quickly and accurately while ignoring distracting stimuli. Slow processing speed makes every task more difficult. Very often, slow processing is one root of ADHD-type behaviors. Symptoms of weaknesses here include homework taking a long time, always being the last one to get his or her shoes on, or being slow at completing even simple tasks.

Cognitive Disorder - Schoolwork is Challenging
The academic environment is becoming increasingly competitive and students with a cognitive disorder often fall behind. Students enrolled in school from kindergarten to medical school are expected to learn at a faster pace and retain more information than ever before. With both the complexity in information and pace of learning increasing, it is easier for individuals to fall behind and struggle with learning.

Sometimes additional tutoring or homework practice is enough to get students back on track with their studies. In most cases, however, the problem is more complex and difficult to address than simple tutoring or extra homework. If the student has a deficiency in underlying cognitive learning skills, no amount of tutoring or extra homework alone will improve their studies.

Cognitive Disorder - Cognitive Skills are the Tools of Learning
A fully functioning set of underlying cognitive skills is necessary if a student is to learn up to their potential. For many, weak cognitive skills are the root cause of common academic struggles.

  • Poor reading and spelling can be traced to weak auditory processing skills.
  • Inefficient processing speed adds hours of frustration to homework assignments.
  • Poor math performance is likely traceable to weak visual processing, reasoning, or working memory skills.

These often combine with specific attention deficiencies to make general studying, following directions, and test taking difficult or almost impossible. Strong cognitive skills are the foundation for academic success. Without strong cognitive skills in place, a student will struggle to learn and retain information throughout their life.

What is Brain Training? What Happens When We Learn?
Brain training is a simple but powerful way to enhance a student’s core ability to learn faster, easier, and better. The brain processes information through a complex network of nerve cells called neurons. As we learn, groupings of neurons physically work together to accomplish learning or thinking tasks. Research shows that additional, nearby neurons are drawn into this process when the task is new or unfamiliar, or when the intensity of the learning demand is increased. Once the task is mastered, the borrowed neurons are released to go back to other duties; however, the gains in efficiency and processing speed required for that task are retained and make learning-related tasks easier.

What is Brain Training? The Key to Enhanced Learning.
Neuroplasticity defines the brain’s ability to change and modify neuron activity and connections in reaction to increased learning demand. Gray matter can actually shrink or thicken, plus neural connections can be forged and refined or (conversely) weakened based on certain environmental activities. Brain training takes advantage of neuroplasticity by engaging a student in specially designed exercises to promote rapid strengthening and growth of these neuronal connections.

The model below illustrates how learning takes place. Brain training strengthens each of the “wheels” (cognitive skills) that make the learning process run smoothly. The key is being able to accurately identify and exercise the correct brain mechanism.



As the learning model above illustrates, information becomes knowledge through a path that relies on individual cognitive skills such as auditory and visual processing and memory. Different skill combinations are required by different learning challenges. If required skills are weak, learning (that is based on that particular skill) will be hindered. The power of brain training is found in its ability to identify, target, and then strengthen individual cognitive skills.

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Lynda Sloan Allen
1931 19th Place
Vero Beach, FL 32960

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