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Student Using Cognitive Skills

Improving Cognitive Skills

Students with ADHD often learn best when presented with a variety of teaching methods. This is often why traditional remediation doesn't help their academic performance. The reason is because those diagnosed with ADHD may lack foundation skills or cognitive skills.

  • Cognitive Skills – the thinking process a student uses to acquire knowledge, such as perception, intuition, and reasoning.
  • Foundation Skills – competencies that travel across all the academic disciplines, such as reading, writing, and math.

The Main Components of Cognitive Skills

Infographic of Cognitive Skills

Processing Speed

If what is being taught to a student processes in his or her brain more quickly, this means that the student is thinking and learning more efficiently.

Logic and Reasoning

To create connections between information absorbed while learning and recalled facts stored in the memory, young people need to sharpen their logic and reasoning skills. Problem-solving and planning improve when a student develops their reasoning abilities.

Visual Processing

Pupils with ADHD sometimes have lower rates of receiving and manipulating visual information. Creating mental images and putting a puzzle back together are two excellent ways to improve reading comprehension and long-term memory.

Auditory Processing

Auditory skills divide into three measurable areas that have a significant impact on academic performance.

  • Analyzing
  • Segmenting
  • Blending

Task Analysis

These skills are needed when a student is:

  • Approaching a problem
  • Deciding on potential solutions
  • Implementing the solution
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the answer


Many capabilities that are part of the learning process have to do with a student's recall. They are:

  1. Long-term storage and recall memory are the libraries of facts on which concepts and knowledge accumulate.
  2. Short-term working memory is the "filing data" mechanism used during the learning experience.
Student Thinking About Assignment

Paying Attention

It is challenging for a student who has ADHD to pay close attention to what someone is saying. Being able to engage thoroughly has three distinct components:

  1. Divided attention or being able to focus on several important points at the same time
  2. Sustained attention or being able to stay focused on a task
  3. Selected concentration or the ability of a student to sort and discard distractions or unrelated incoming data quickly, and to remain focused on the significant information or instruction.

Following Directions

School revolves around following directions and some students consistently have a difficult time with this concept. It's important for teachers and parents to understand the following:

  • Students have to learn how to pay attention and follow directions.
  • They are easily distracted and think about something else when they should be listening to the teacher.
  • They tune in, tune out, tune in and often hear only small pieces of what the instructor is saying or reading.
  • Children sometimes assume they already know the directions and do not need to listen to the teacher.
  • Young ones with ADHD can get stuck on one word or phrase causing them not to hear all the instructions.
  • Sadly, there are times when students with ADHD think they are going to fail anyway, so they are confused as to why they should listen in the first place.

Improving the Ability to Follow Directions

There are ways to strengthen the ability of our students to understand and follow directions. If an assignment has more than one step the following suggestions will help:

  • Provide a written list of instructions.
  • Post the instructions on the school's website.
  • Use a visual representation on the list of directions.
  • Use color coding when writing the instructions.
  • Demonstrate what is needed to be accomplished.
  • Have students check back often to ensure they are on the right track.
  • Have the student re-read the directions at least once during the timeframe of the project.


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