Cognitive Deficits

Long Term Retrieval

Definition

Long Term Retrieval (LTR) is the process by which information is transferred from immediate awareness and stored for later retrieval.  This cluster measures the efficiency and fluency with which an individual can retrieve information that has been previously stored.  LTR is not the same as long term memory, which reflects the depth of the individual’s acquired knowledge.  In other words, LTR measures “how” information is stored; long term memory measures “what” is stored.

Assessment Measures

In the WJ III, the LTR cluster comprises two tests:

Visual-Auditory Learning (Test 2)

Measures ability to learn, store, and retrieve associations;

Retrieval Fluency (Test 12)

Measures ability to fluently retrieve information from stored knowledge.

The WAIS-III does not measure Long Term Retrieval.

Functional Implications

Those who are strong in LTR demonstrate ability to make associations enabling them to easily retain, retrieve, and connect pieces of information or concepts.

If a student demonstrates an LTR deficit, she/he may have difficulty connecting previously learned information with newer, related information.  S/he may also have difficulty efficiently retrieving stored information.  An individual with an LTR deficit may require frequent repetition to learn new information and may be inconsistent in recalling that information at a later time.

Examples:

  1. A student may have learned all the formulas required for a math class.  However, the student is unable to retrieve the appropriate formula needed to solve a particular problem because of faulty storage of associations. 
  2. A student in a biology class must identify slides on a lab test.  Although the student has stored information about the parts of a cell, the student is unable to retrieve this information quickly enough to complete the test in the allotted time.
  3. In an art history class, students are shown slides for a few seconds and required to identify the artist and the style period.  A student with an LTR deficit might recognize the painting but not be able to connect the other information within the time limit.

 

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Instructional Goal

Students will apply memory strategies (mnemonics) in a variety of contexts to improve information storage and retrieval.

Instructional Considerations

A vast body of recent research in memory and cognition shows that effective long-term retrieval is dependent on the quality of semantic relations that exist between old and new learning. The software and hardware products described later in this document enhance one’s ability to create connections between discrete segments of information, whether auditory or visual, so that they can be stored and recalled more efficiently, thereby enhancing long-term retrieval. It is unclear whether software exercises alone can improve long-term retrieval. Mnemonic strategies need to be taught in conjunction with software use, and may include:

  • Verbal/visual associations
  • Chunking
  • Loci
  • Peg System
  • Personalization
  • Strategies to organize information for more effective retrieval

Adjunct tasks associated with software practice should be used to encourage functional application of the strategies learned (for example, students develop a portfolio demonstrating their successful functional/academic use of retrieval strategies.

Software Characteristics

Feedback should be educational.

Frequent on screen scoring allows students to learn from their responses. There should be an opportunity to try a task more than once with minimal penalty. Cues should be provided if responses are repeatedly inaccurate. Students should be able to determine their most effective learning modality by comparing scores on a variety of tasks. The software should accept close approximations of spelling where accuracy is not essential.

Software tasks must provide practice with a limited number of easily defined strategies.

Practice with a limited number of strategies enables a student with memory problems to clearly understand the nature of the strategies being developed and used.

Tasks should be presented in order of increasing complexity.

It is critical for students with memory problems to begin developing memory strategies at a simple level before moving to more complex levels. Tasks of increasing complexity provide motivation and an opportunity to self-monitor for effective application of the strategy being practiced. In this way mastery of a particular memory strategy may be achieved.

Format should be motivating.

Memorization can be boring. Computer graphics, auditory and visual reinforcers, or a game format provide motivation for continued practice.

Reading and spelling tasks should be matched to the student’s abilities.

Students should be able to attribute their scores to memory practice only. Errors in reading or spelling confuse and frustrate students and are unrelated to the memory task itself.

An authoring component should be available when appropriate.

Authoring components which allow students to develop visual memory aids (e.g., flash cards, lists, outlines for academic coursework) are particularly useful. Learning has a greater chance of occurring when activities can be applied in real life situations.

Potential for distraction from the task should be provided.

Distraction is a primary hindrance to the ability to memorize successfully. Software-generated distractions provide the opportunity for students to learn how to overcome this problem.

 

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Recommended Software

Fast For Word Literacy/Literacy Advanced (Scientific Learning)

This program uses a game format to systematically train auditory processing skills to improve listening and language processing (as a basis for reading and functional listening skills) from the phoneme to short paragraph level. The 50 minute protocol strongly recommends 5 days a week until all skills are mastered (approx. 6-8 weeks for most students).

Literacy lays the basic foundation and Literacy Advanced gives the students new ways to build the same skills as the information they process gets more complex and moves into more reading.

The research basis and individualization of the rate of delivery of the stimuli (via internet connection) to each student to keep them successful, but challenged and motivated, makes this the gold standard for software programs.

Students have to listen, watch and respond using a keyboard or mouse so other integrated skills are built as well, such as visual processing and visual memory, even though they are not a direct focus.

This relates to long term retrieval because students develop strategies that have to be implemented daily while the stimuli moves faster. Students do well if they remember and replicate strategies that have worked for them in the past. Part of the instructor “monitoring” includes discussing, building, and reinforcing the use of strategies that are effective in raising scores. This language can then be transferred to other types of storage and retrieval strategies.

Compensatory Memory Strategies: Chunking (Parrot Software)

Chunking has lists of items that can be controlled in number of items and types of categories. It is simply a task in grouping by category and then remembering through either recognition from a list, or by typing in responses. It does not go further in developing chunking techniques. It is best used as a starting point for the concept of grouping, and then true chunking techniques for better and more functional use can be provided by non-computerized instruction.

Memory Challenge (Critical Thinking Software)

Memory Challenge uses a visual memory process involving shapes and color. Instructor can control number of items, number of different shapes used, and number of different colors used. Presentation time can be controlled, from one to 60 seconds. Unique to this program is controlled distractions, which can be used to challenge long term retrieval. The type of distractor (Blank, Visual, Question, None) and duration from 0 to 120 seconds can be controlled.

Brain Fitness Program (Posit Science)

Through adaptive training that is continuously customized for an individual user’s brain performance, the training program clearly defines goals and shows progress history and achievments.

The training program stores complete training data and presents it in a user-friendly set of feedback/progress screens that occur at the end of each exercise and the end of each training session. In addition (optionally, at the user’s request), the training program securely and confidentially uploads all training data where more detailed analyses and feedback can be performed by a phone call to Posit customer service.

The training program presents instructional material in printed form (for reading-focused learning styles), in example form (for auditory learners), and through practice (for experiential learners); in addition the training exercises continuously adapt to the brain performance of each individual learner thus maximizing the learning that an individual performs.

 

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Short-Term Memory and Working Memory

Definition

These interrelated memory areas involve immediate storing of information, but they serve distinct roles in processing and eventual comprehension of information. Behavior aspects such as inattention, anxiety, and poor concentration may affect both short-term memory (STM) and working memory (WM).

Short-term memory is an element of cognitive efficiency or automatic processing. Closely related to memory span, STM requires holding information for a few seconds and then using it before it is lost or stored for future use. From this view, STM may be considered a first step to “permanent” storage.

In contrast, Working Memory involves not only memory span, but also manipulation of information that is in immediate awareness to solve given problems. Thus, WM has multiple components such as sequential processing, number ability, and executive processing or planning.

Assessment Measures

Short-Term Memory

On the WJ III, the STM cluster includes two tests:

Numbers Reversed (Test 7)
Memory for Words (Test 17).

 

Both tests measure memory span, although Numbers Reversed may be considered a measure of WM. The WAIS-III does not specifically measure STM.

Working Memory

On the WAIS-III, three tests comprise the Working Memory Index:

Arithmetic (Test 6);
Digit Span (Test 8);
Letter-Number Sequencing (Test 13).

 

These tests require listening to and quickly storing information in STM and then moving to WM where mental manipulation and visualization of information is needed. Additionally, Arithmetic requires recognizing specific processes (e.g., adding, subtracting) to use.

On the WJ III, WM includes:

Numbers Reversed (Test 7);
Auditory Working Memory (Test 9).

 

The latter involves mentally dividing information into two groups (numbers and words) and putting them in ordered sequence.

Functional Implications

People with good STM/WM often do well with rote memorization as well as being able to follow lengthy oral directions. They generally do well grasping lecture information.

A student with either a short-term or working memory deficit may encounter difficulty holding information long enough either to mentally manipulate it or to comprehend it. As a result, the student may struggle to relate the information to on-going situations (e.g., lectures) or may grasp only bits and pieces of what she/he hears. Thus, the student may not proficiently process, comprehend, and/or store information.

Examples
  1. During a large lecture class, a professor orally presents an extensive list of terms for students to look up and learn for the next class. Because the professor does not write the information on the board or provide a written list, the student with STM/WM deficit may miss several terms.
  2. When a student with STM/WM deficit takes a math exam, he/she may need extended time because without writing down each step of the problems he/she cannot remember what calculations have been completed.
  3. A manager of a sports supply store directs an employee to display specific sizes and styles of shoes. Without a written list, the employee with STM/WM deficit may confuse or not remember the size and style numbers.

 

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Instructional Goal

For short-term memory, students will briefly retain and then retrieve information. For working memory, students will provide responses that reflect their ability to retain and mentally manipulate information.

Instructional Considerations

Modality of presentation and modality required in responding need to be considered. Students may exhibit different strengths with verbal as opposed to visual information.

Recognition of information that was retained (e.g. choosing from a list) is easier than retrieval of the specific information. This should be considered in task difficulty and in determining progress.

Within specific programs, do not increase difficulty levels too quickly. Improvements may be seen with specific information in specific programs, and not accurately reflect functional improvements.

It may be helpful to use software to present and practice mnemonic strategies with this material (see long-term retrieval). Academic materials used in the software should be within the student’s abilities.

Software Characteristics

Format should be motivating.

The task of this software is to train students to attend to multiple stimuli and/or stimuli which increases in complexity and length. Because this type of memory practice can be boring, it is important that software provide visual or auditory reinforcement to motivate students to continue practicing. Game formats are often the most successful in generating motivation, but the student must be taught to apply the skills she/he is learning to every day activities in and out of school.

Software should require mastery before student can advance to a higher level.

Confusion and frustration will result if a student advances before she/he has mastered the current memorization task. Often the instructor must monitor students to be sure that this software is being used properly.

Software should provide a variety of activities.

By working in a variety of activities, a student can monitor the ways in which her/his mind functions in the context of these different activities. More importantly, these activities provide the student with experiences which reveal how her/his particular mind works. Some tasks will be easier than others depending upon the individual student. Software scores can be used as tools to illustrate a student’s learning strengths and weaknesses.

Software should provide frequent feedback.

Short segments with feedback provided allow the student to take in the information they are learning about themselves more effectively. If a task is too long or complex this benefit will be compromised by frustration due to repeated errors.

Reading and spelling tasks should be matched to the student’s abilities.

Students should be able to attribute their scores to memory practice alone. Errors in reading or spelling contaminate information the student needs to learn about efforts to improve short term memory.

Recommended Software

Fast ForWord Literacy/Literacy Advanced (Scientific Learning)

This program uses a game format to systematically train auditory processing skills to improve listening and language processing (as a basis for reading and functional listening skills) from the phoneme to short paragraph level. The 50 minute protocol strongly recommends 5 days a week until all skills are mastered (approx. 6-8 weeks for most students).

Literacy lays the basic foundation and Literacy Advanced gives the students new ways to build the same skills as the information they process gets more complex and moves into more reading. The research basis and individualization of the rate of delivery of the stimuli (via internet connection) to each student to keep them successful, but challenged and motivated, makes this the gold standard for software programs.

Students have to listen, watch and respond using a keyboard or mouse so other integrated skills are built as well, such as visual processing and visual memory, even though they are not a direct focus.

NOTE: Posit Science’s Brain Fitness program is based on the same science and foundation as Fast ForWord. The decision regarding when to use FFW Literacy vs. Brain Fitness hinges on reading background. Brain Fitness would be primarily appropriate for people who have lost listening and reading ability due to head injury, stroke, or aging. FFW Literacy/Literacy Advanced is for people who are very low or poor readers (usually due to life long cognitive and processing deficits) and never had the reading foundation.

Locutour Attention/Memory - Vol 1,2, and High Level (Learning Fundamentals)

This program helps auditory and visual memory by providing a variety of and memory and attention exercises that range from simple to complex.

Earobics (Cognitive Concepts)

This program provides auditory memory and auditory processing exercises for student practice.

Memory for Directions (Parrot Software)

Memory for Directions helps auditory and visual memory by giving verbal or written directions (1-3) to click and drag specific images to locations (above, below, right/left) of other images.

Listening Skills (Parrot Software)

Listening Skills helps auditory short term memory by giving verbal directions to color specific shapes on top, middle, or bottom rows. It can be set to give 1-5 directions. Responses can be self-corrected. Directions can be repeated.

Logical Thinking (Parrot Software)

Logical Thinking has a short-term memory component using directions containing if/then statements with and/or/not. Level of complexity can be controlled involving right/left/above/below, color, and odd/even numbers to identify where an object should be located. All instructions are written, but disappear once the image is picked up to be dragged to its location.

Visual Pattern Memory (Parrot Software)

Visual Pattern Memory is more purely visual short term memory. Number of items and duration displayed can be controlled. Items appear in their locations within a grid for the specified duration. Then entire grid is filled with pictures and the ones displayed earlier are to be selected.

Memory Challenge (Critical Thinking Software)

Memory Challenge uses a visual memory process involving shapes and color. Instructor can control number of items, number of different shapes used, and number of different colors used. Presentation time can be controlled, from one to 60 seconds. Unique to this program is controlled distractions. The type of distracter (Blank, Visual, Question, None) and duration from 0 to 120 seconds can be controlled.

Brain Fitness Program (Posit Science)

Through adaptive training that is continuously customized for an individual user’s brain performance, the training program clearly defines goals and shows progress history and achievments.

The training program stores complete training data and presents it in a user-friendly set of feedback/progress screens that occur at the end of each exercise and the end of each training session. In addition (optionally, at the user’s request), the training program securely and confidentially uploads all training data where more detailed analyses and feedback can be performed by a phone call to Posit customer service.

The training program presents instructional material in printed form (for reading-focused learning styles), in example form (for auditory learners), and through practice (for experiential learners); in addition the training exercises continuously adapt to the brain performance of each individual learner thus maximizing the learning that an individual performs.

 

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Processing Speed Clusters

Definition

Processing Speed is the ability to execute simple, relatively automatic visual-motor tasks and to maintain attention when time is an essential component of the tasks. However, although processing speed tasks on the surface are relatively automatic, the WAIS-III and WJ III subtests include several components of this ability: psychomotor speed, mental speed, perceptual speed/visual motor coordination, semantic processing, visual memory, and planning ability. Additionally, processing speed tests may reflect issues with compulsiveness and motivation.

Assessment Measures

The WAIS-III Processing Speed cluster includes:

Digit Symbol-Coding
Symbol Search;

Coding focuses primarily on psychomotor speed, but it also includes visual memory and planning ability.

Symbol Search taps mental speed—the ability to quickly discern similarities and differences among visual stimuli.

There are also two supplemental tests:

Digit Symbol-Copy
Digit-Symbol Incidental Learning.

The supplemental tests help discern differences between perceptual accuracy/speed and visual memory.

The WJ III Processing Speed cluster includes:

Visual Matching (Test 6)

Examines ability to discriminate between visual (number) patterns.

Decision Speed (Test 16)

Requires making quick conceptual decisions (i.e., how two things are related, not just how they look alike.)

Functional Implications

Students with good processing speed quickly interpret visual symbols and may be adept at attending to details.

A student with a processing speed deficit may encounter difficulty with tasks that require rapid, efficient visual scanning and interpretation of visual stimuli, including letters, numbers, and symbols. As a result, when time limits are imposed, a student may sacrifice comprehension for speed when reading, confuse numbers and/or symbols on math problems, or not complete exams within standard time limits.

Examples
  1. A student with a processing speed deficit correctly completes only 20 of 40 multiple choice questions on a history test. Each question has five answer choices, and the answer is to be recorded on a Scantron. Because of the multiple tasks involved—reading the questions and answer choices, matching the answer choice to the corresponding letter space on the Scantron, and making sure the space is on the correct line—the student works slowly and carefully checks responses. Even though he/she correctly answered the 20 questions, the student fails with a grade of 50%.
  2. When a student with a processing speed deficit takes a math exam, he/she struggles to distinguish differences between numbers and symbols that are similar. Without extra time the student may make careless errors as well as misinterpret the symbols.
  3. The morning of a sale, an electronics store employee is given a list of sale items with their reduced prices, and he/she is asked cross out the original prices and to write the sale prices on the item tags. If the employee has a processing speed deficit, he/she may have difficulty quickly and efficiently carrying out this task.

 

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Instructional Goal

Students will increase their ability to perform automatic cognitive tasks.

Instructional Considerations

Task selections should consider addressing rapid intake and/or processing of information and not merely rapid responding. It is important to have programs in which information is presented for a controllable short time as well as programs that motivate the student to respond before negative consequences occur.

A variety of activities should be available in order to facilitate generalization.

Varied tasks are also need in order to encourage rapid processing of not only visual perceptual or auditory information, but also academic information.

Time-based feedback or data collection procedures are preferred, rather than documenting only levels of achievement.

Software Characteristics

A wide range of speed levels should be available so that students can work on content at or near ability levels.

Software for processing speed should offer a wide range of speed levels in order to allow success for slower students and challenges for higher functioning students. Content difficulty should be within or near students’ abilities so the task focus is primarily on increasing the speed of accurate responses (and not on error responses which result from poor reading skills). Software with an open-entry structure for task selection allows students to begin at or near the speed level they find challenging.

Response process should reflect rapid processing of information.

The response process should reflect that the student has processed the information, and processed it accurately. Students should not be penalized for a slow keyboard entry rate. If the software objective is reading more quickly, speed and accuracy of the response (e.g., keyboard entry of word(s) that were read) should not be an issue.

Software should include a timing component.

A timing component should monitor students’ speed of task completion and/or challenge them to work faster. It can do this in at least four ways:

  • presenting visual stimuli for a set duration;
  • discontinuing tasks when a set duration for responding has been exceeded;
  • documenting response time as feedback; or
  • providing a “chase” environment to motivate the student to complete the task before negative consequences occur.

Recommended Software

Fast ForWord (FFW) Literacy/Literacy Advanced (Scientific Learning)

This program uses a game format to systematically train auditory processing skills to improve listening and language processing (as a basis for reading and functional listening skills) from the phoneme to short paragraph level. The 50 minute protocol strongly recommends 5 days a week until all skills are mastered (approx. 6-8 weeks for most students).

Literacy lays the basic foundation and Literacy Advanced gives the students new ways to build the same skills as the information they process gets more complex and moves into more reading.

Students have to listen, watch and respond using a keyboard or mouse so other integrated skills are built as well, such as visual processing and visual memory, even though they are not a direct focus.

Locutour Attention/Memory (Learning Fundamentals)

Visual processing speed will be trained any time students have to watch and respond. On this program, students have to attend and respond in a timely fashion or they will lose points.

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (Broderbund)

This trains visual-motor processing speed because students are watching the model on the screen and typing along with it at faster speeds and increasing levels of complexity. Motivation can be maintained as the instructor/tutor reminds the student of the practical application of these skills.

Ultimate Speed Reader (Smart Kids Software)

This program facilitates reading speed, but it also works on processing speed through controlling the presentation speed of 2-4 letters or 2-4 words, and then untimed multiple choice responses. Number of items and speed presented can be controlled. Accurate responses speed up presentation speed, while inaccurate responses yield representation of the same items at a slower speed.

Brain Fitness Program (Posit Science)

Through adaptive training that is continuously customized for an individual user’s brain performance, the training program clearly defines goals and shows progress history and achievments.

The training program stores complete training data and presents it in a user-friendly set of feedback/progress screens that occur at the end of each exercise and the end of each training session. In addition (optionally, at the user’s request), the training program securely and confidentially uploads all training data where more detailed analyses and feedback can be performed by a phone call to Posit customer service.

The training program presents instructional material in printed form (for reading-focused learning styles), in example form (for auditory learners), and through practice (for experiential learners); in addition the training exercises continuously adapt to the brain performance of each individual learner thus maximizing the learning that an individual performs.

 

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Visual-Spatial Thinking and Perceptual Organization

Definition

These closely related areas focus on ability to think in pictures, to store and recall visual details, and to analyze relationships between visual patterns. Although the WJ III Visual-Spatial Thinking and WAIS-III Perceptual Organization individual tasks are quite different in nature on the surface, they share concepts involving simultaneous processing (interpretation of more than one image at a time), speed of mental processing (some tests are timed), synthesis (part-to-whole relationships), and some trial and error learning. Additionally, since both clusters are based on non-verbal reasoning, neither involves extensive prior learning nor are they affected by a person’s language background such as ESL.

Assessment Measures

The WJ III Visual-Spatial Thinking cluster (Gv) includes:

Spatial Relations (Test 3)

Measures ability to use visualization.

Picture Recognition (Test 13)

Consists of a visual memory task.

Three supplemental tests further examine visual thinking:

Visual Closure (Test 22)
Block Rotation (Test 23)
Planning (Test 19)

These tests also examine the ability to recognize whole pictures when pieces are missing, to recognize alike geometric shapes when one is rotated, and to formulate plans to trace patterns (visualization).

The WAIS-III Perceptual Organization index includes:

Picture Completion (Test 1)
Block Design (Test 5)
Matrix Reasoning (Test 7)
Object Assembly (Test 14)

An optional test that may be administered and substituted for a spoiled performance test.

All of these tests address simultaneous processing, spatial visualization, part-to-whole relationships, non-verbal abstract reasoning, and interpretation of visual details and their importance.

Functional Implications

People with strong visual spatial and perceptual organization skills are generally drawn to fields such as art, geography, and engineering. They are able to use their strengths to manipulate and comprehend visual patterns.

A student with weak visual-spatial thinking or perceptual organization abilities may encounter difficulty in the following areas:

a) solving problems where vocabulary is limited,

b) easily recognizing visual details, and

c) interpreting patterns such as in geography, geometry, and art.

Thus, the student may overlook or misinterpret essential details on maps or charts, or have difficulty aligning numbers or organizing graphs.

Some students with poor visual memory may struggle to recall what they have seen without several repetitions.

Finally, some people may have problems with directionality such as differentiating between north- east- south -west, as well as judging distance and following directions to get from one place to another.

Examples
  1. A student plans to enroll in an Oceanography class and its accompanying lab. Part of the curriculum involves identifying (on maps) different ocean currents and the latitudes at which they are generally positioned. Because the student has problems with north-east-south-west directionality, he/she will need to develop effective learning strategies that facilitate mastery of the course content.
  2. Part of an art history exam involves viewing slides of several types of art and identifying the artists and the periods in which the art was painted. Each slide is presented for two minutes. For a student with visual processing deficits, the time limit may interfere with his/her ability to adequately process, store, and recall the required information.
  3. Spatial orientation difficulties may result in difficulty traveling from one location to another without written instructions that specify names of streets to turn on or designate how many stop signs or traffic signals are between locations. A person with such problems also may need to develop and employ strategies to facilitate recognition of left and right such as on which arm he/she wears a watch.

 

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Instructional Goals

Practice strategies to improve organization of visual data leading to a product.

Practice strategies to improve discrimination of increasingly subtle variations in visual sequences, spatial relationships among objects, and orientation of objects.

These software goals combine strengthening visual perceptual skills and thoughtful, efficient problem solving.

Instructional Considerations

Software provides the opportunity for improvement of visual perceptual skills as well as cognitive mediation of (thinking about) visual perceptual tasks when the solution is not readily perceived.

When concentrating on academic tasks (e.g. writing using a word processor) students can take advantage of strategies to compensate for visual perceptual weaknesses. These strategies include adjusting screen colors, adjusting text font, adjusting text size, adjusting format of work on the monitor, enlarging the cursor, using copy holders with line guides, and using on-line reference and personal management tools.

Software Characteristics

The software text and graphics must be easily perceived.

The monitor must have clear resolution (e.g. smooth characters, no bleeding colors, no bouncing graphics, no obvious flicker) so the quality of the images will not interfere with perception of the material.

There should be clear, minimal on-screen directions.

Students should not be distracted from visual perceptual tasks by confusing or difficult to read directions.

The software should provide carefully sequenced activities.

It is especially important that software activities be sequenced to help students avoid sensory overload and confusion, maintain their motivation, and provide enough challenges to stretch their skills.

Responses should reflect decisions regarding organization or discrimination of visual perceptual data.

Success with the software must depend on using visual perceptual skills.

Recommended Software

Factory Deluxe (Sunburst Software)

This software challenges visual thinking and organization through a series of increasingly complex construction tasks. The program teaches separate processes, and then requires the user to appropriately sequence the processes to achieve a finished product. Level of difficulty can be controlled.

Building Perspective Deluxe (Sunburst Software)

Building Perspective develops 3-dimentional spatial thinking and reasoning by identifying items when a group of them is viewed from different perspectives (above, and on each of four sides). Size of the group can be controlled.

Puzzle Master (EGames)

Puzzle Master develops perceptual analysis and awareness of visual detail. It is a program of jigsaw puzzles that can be controlled for number of pieces and shape of pieces for complexity.

Brain Fitness Program (Posit Science)

Through adaptive training that is continuously customized for an individual user’s brain performance, the training program clearly defines goals and shows progress history and achievements.

The training program stores complete training data and presents it in a user-friendly set of feedback/progress screens that occur at the end of each exercise and the end of each training session. In addition (optionally, at the user’s request), the training program securely and confidentially uploads all training data where more detailed analyses and feedback can be performed by a phone call to Posit customer service.

The training program presents instructional material in printed form (for reading-focused learning styles), in example form (for auditory learners), and through practice (for experiential learners); in addition the training exercises continuously adapt to the brain performance of each individual learner thus maximizing the learning that an individual performs.

Brain Fitness Program was specifically designed to be engaging and enticing to its target users; it presents the scientifically rigorous training content in the context of engaging and challenging game-like exercises. The user interface was designed with the target user (older adults) closely in mind. The graphics and sounds are part of an integrated science-based reward system designed specifically to engage and enhace brain systems crucial for the control of learning and memory including attention, reward, and novelty-detection.

 

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Knowledge and Verbal Comprehension

Definition

Comprehension-Knowledge (WJ III) and Verbal Comprehension (WAIS-III) involve crystallized or learned knowledge, including breadth of vocabulary and general information, and the ability to reason with this information. This broad ability is important in all areas of academics. Vocabulary is also deemed an important predictor of academic potential.

Assessment Measures

Comprehension-Knowledge on the WJ III includes two tests:

Verbal Comprehension (test 1)

Comprises picture vocabulary, synonyms, antonyms, and analogies.

General Information (test 11)

Verbal Comprehension on the WAIS-III includes:

Vocabulary (test 2), Similarities (test 4), Information (test 6).

Functional Implications

People who display strength in these areas have well developed vocabulary and a good store of learned information. They are also generally good communicators.

Because vocabulary, general knowledge, and verbal reasoning are essential in almost all academic areas, a student with deficits in these areas may encounter difficulty with tasks such as reading comprehension, taking written exams, writing essays, following oral directions, mastering lecture material, and expressing thoughts orally. Additionally, deficits in these areas often reflect long-term memory weakness.

Examples
  1. An employee is required to pass a written test based on a reading assignment about different workplace situations. Because the employee has deficits in vocabulary, she does not comprehend all the details she reads and then cannot easily answer the written questions.
  2. A student is asked to write a term paper that argues whether 18 year-olds should/should not be allowed to consume alcohol. Because the student has weak verbal reasoning, his paper does not present arguments that clearly address the issue. Instead, he writes only why his friends think drinking is OK.
  3. An anthropology professor gives a series of detailed lectures about a Southeast Asian culture but does not give a short review of each previous lecture. A student who has long-term memory deficits may have difficulty following the lecture because she needs review to help her recall what was learned in the previous lecture.

 

Note: Because this area of assessment is so broad, descriptions of functional behaviors and software considerations are broken down into two basic areas:

 

  1. Vocabulary, and
  2. Verbal (listening) comprehension.

Instructional Goal (Vocabulary)

Students will increase written vocabulary at the single word level and categorize relationships among words.

Instructional Considerations (Vocabulary)

It should be noted that tests used to measure these skills require a verbal/oral response, while most computer software requires a written or motor response.

 

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Software Characteristics (Vocabulary)

Objectives and content should be clearly organized.

Objectives for the development of vocabulary and word relationships should be functional and clearly stated. Whether by grade-level, by part of speech, or as survival vocabulary, its organization should be in agreement with the instructional objectives for these students.

Definitions should be clear and within students’ reading abilities.

Content for vocabulary/word relationship tasks should offer a wide range of reading/spelling levels with instructions and definitions clearly within students’ reading levels. The content of definitions is easily susceptible to cultural biases and should be reviewed with students. It is suggested that new word lists be limited to no more than 20 per set. After mastery of each set, some integration of word sets may be helpful in generalization. An open-entry process allows students to begin at or near a challenging level.

Format should be interactive, with a variety of drill activities available.

Format is crucial in vocabulary development. An interactive instructional format for initial learning of new vocabulary or word relationships (as opposed to the display-only format of many programs) is beneficial prior to drill formats. A variety of activities (e.g. multiple choice, matching, sentence completion) not only accommodates different learning styles, but also facilitates generalization of word knowledge. Because many programs are drill-based, a motivating format assisted by appropriate graphics, is helpful.

Response processes should reflect knowledge of word meanings or relationships.

Opportunities for choice responses and single word entry responses should be available, but unless instructional objectives stress accurate spelling, the program should provide some assistance and/or accept a range of spelling accuracy in responses. When responses are inaccurate, the correct answer should be displayed.

Authoring component should be easy to use.

Entry of material relevant to students’ current needs is the most functional use of these programs.

Spoken output is desirable.

The dual input of visual and spoken word production not only accommodates both auditory and verbal learners, it also assists in generalization of new vocabulary into spoken language.

Instructional Goal (Verbal Comprehension)

Students will demonstrate comprehension of increasingly complex verbal language concepts. Materials need to increase in length and complexity from single word to extended paragraph.

Instructional Considerations (Verbal Comprehension)

Although there is no commercially available software for lengthy material this area directly, there are many emerging products in software for English as a Second Language (ESL) and at ESL sites online. These allow for students to listen to more lengthy information through dialogues and lectures, some of which are academic in nature. Listening to task-specific directions (up to five steps) is available.

There are reading comprehension products that allow a spoken component to run simultaneously with the reading. For these to be purely auditory in nature, the monitor would need to be obscured, which would impact navigation of the program.

As content increases in length, students will need to utilize strategies to assist short and long-term retrieval in order to organize and retain information.

Software Characteristics (Verbal Comprehension)

Software content should reflect differing levels and types of complexity.

Material can increase in difficulty in many ways: in length, in grammatical complexity, and in the abstractness of its ideas. The software should effectively organize difficulty levels acknowledging these parameters.

Software content should be free from cultural bias.

Because grammatical structures and abstract ideas are easily susceptible to cultural biases, content should be reviewed with students before use.

Response processes should reflect comprehension.

If keyboard entry is required for response, students should not be penalize for spelling errors.

Feedback should be educational.

Opportunity for repeated attempts at correct answers is important in this area, as is identification and explanation of accurate responses. Ideally, material relevant to the correct answer should be highlighted (perhaps as cues), and there should be feedback to explain why inaccurate responses are in error.

Content should require association of ideas.

Tasks should require students to determine main ideas, make inference, and/or draw conclusions.

Program content should be suitable for class discussion on the use of strategies for organization of material.

Extended verbal information needs to be organized in order to facilitate comprehension and retention. Strategies for organizing the material received can be reviewed before the task, as part of the task, and/or after the task.

 

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Recommended Software

Fast ForWord Literacy/Literacy Advanced (Scientific Learning)

This program uses a game format to systematically train auditory processing skills to improve listening and language processing (as a basis for reading and functional listening skills) from the phoneme to short paragraph level. The 50 minute protocol strongly recommends 5 days a week until all skills are mastered (approx. 6-8 weeks for most students).

Literacy lays the basic foundation and Literacy Advanced gives the students new ways to build the same skills as the information they process gets more complex and moves into more reading.

The research basis and individualization of the rate of delivery of the stimuli (via internet connection) to each student to keep them successful, but challenged and motivated, makes this the gold standard for software programs.

Students have to listen, watch and respond using a keyboard or mouse so other integrated skills are built as well, such as visual processing and visual memory, even though they are not a direct focus.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary Fitness (Merit Software)

This program provides practice with feedback and explanations for commonly confused words used in context. The different units increase in difficulty.

Multiple Meaning Words 1 & 2 (Parrot Software)

These programs provide vocabulary practice of homonyms, both in generating one and then using each appropriately in context. There is no apparent increase in difficulty within programs or between them.

Verbal Comprehension

Listening Skills, Memory for Directions, & Conditional Statements (Parrot Software)

These programs all give verbal instructions to be completed, up to 3 steps in Memory for Directions, up to 5 steps in Listening skills, and 1 step that increases in linguistic complexity in Conditional Statements. Memory for Directions can be verbal or written, while Conditional Statements can be verbal, written, or both.

Reading Shape-Up (Merit Software)

When used in conjunction with Merit-Talker, this program provides questions about paragraph-length material, including sequence, inference, detail, vocabulary in context, and fact/opinion. This provides dual input, but the screen could be turned off or obscured.

Developing Critical Reading Skills (Merit Software)

When used in conjunction with Merit-Talker, this program can be used both to identify vocabulary in context or to identify main idea and to inference within paragraph length material. This provides dual input, but the screen could be turned off or obscured.

 

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Fluid Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning

Definition

Fluid reasoning and abstract reasoning involve problem solving that is not generally based on prior or learned knowledge. Such problem solving might include making inferences, analyzing, synthesizing, and using deductive and inductive reasoning. As broad abilities, fluid and abstract reasoning are used in both verbal and nonverbal situations.

Assessment Measures

Two Woodcock Johnson III tests involve fluid reasoning:

Analysis-Synthesis (test 15)

Analysis-Synthesis is a deductive reasoning task where conclusions are reached by following given conditions or guidelines and adapting them to solve problems.

Concept Formation (test 3).

Concept Formation is a rule-based measure that utilizes induction and flexibility of thinking to reach conclusions. Both tests present visual stimuli as “keys” or rules.

The WAIS-III does not have any pure measures of fluid and abstract reasoning. However, Matrix Reasoning (test 7) items require abstract reasoning such as figuring out the rules that govern patterns and how to complete them.

Functional Implications

Individuals with strengths in these areas frequently excel in mathematics, logic, and science. They also enjoy solving puzzles and complex problems requiring abstract thinking.

An individual with a deficit in either fluid or abstract reasoning may encounter difficulty with abstract math such as algebra, identifying logical sequences, or recognizing how rules should be applied to solve problems. Although generally these limitations apply to abstract problem solving, drawing generalizations from reading assignments and sequencing details in written assignments also may be affected.

Examples
  1. A student is enrolled in an algebra class. Because he has difficulty with abstract reasoning, he struggles to understand how numbers can equate with letters or how negative numbers can produce positive numbers.
  2. In a science class, the instructor asks students to use the scientific method to solve an experiment. A student with a deficit in fluid reasoning may struggle to understand how or why one step relates to another step without having an outline that demonstrates the scientific method.
  3. An employee is asked to analyze a detailed proposal about a new business venture and then outline the general ideas. Because the employee has a deficit in fluid reasoning, he confuses less important details with general ideas.

Instructional Goal

Students will practice the skills of inference, sequence, logic, rule-formation (classification), and organization of complex information leading to improved problem-solving skills. Students will learn to evaluate results and develop new solutions as necessary.

Instructional Considerations

Improvements in abstract reasoning require a combination of teacher support and independent student work on software. Teacher support might take the form of organizing students into teams, providing focus for an activity, or demonstrating organizational strategies.

It is essential that students be made aware of the types of reasoning and organization options appropriate to the problems that they are solving. Examples of problem-solving strategies are working backwards, making a prioritized list, stating the problem as a question, and developing a table or chart.

Students with language-based learning disabilities often discover that visual-spatial software programs like Factory and Safari Search are easier for them than are more verbally “loaded” programs such as the Carmen Sandiego series. Such a realization may help a student understand more clearly the nature of his/her disability.

 

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Software Characteristics

Software should have clear instructions.

Although it may seem redundant to list this elementary software atttribute, clarity of instructions is of paramount importance for students with reasoning problems. Additionally, the goal(s) of the program must also be clearly stated.

Software scores should be clear and accessible.

Students will often stray off task with complicated or lengthy programs. Therefore, interim scores or scoring in short segments allows them to correct for errors and have more success in finding solutions.

Software should have a motivating format.

Appropriate feedback will encourage students to continue working on tasks. Age-appropriate and/or contemporary themes are essential to full student participation.

Software should encourage teamwork.

Many students learn best when teaching someone else. Software which permits students to work in teams generates a good learning environment. Team members learn from one another and new solutions emerge from the group which might not have been obvious to an individual working alone.

Success with software requires organization of information.

A primary purpose of this type of software is to teach inference and complex problem solving. Success should require the student to develop and employ a variety of information management strategies. Examples of information management strategies are note taking in the form of a list, table, chart, or solution matrix.

Success with software should require analysis of information.

Students should not be able to “win” by guessing or by trial and error. They should understand exactly how they arrived at a conclusion and why the conclusion is the correct one.

Recommended Software

Mind Benders (Critical Thinking Software)

This program works on using language cues to complete a logic puzzle. This lets students work on the foundational processes needed for math word problems without being panicked by math information.

Thinkanalogy Level B (Critical Thinking Software)

This program provides practice in analogical thinking, both by having the student select words they think are related and choosing the type of analogy that relates them. There are three levels that can be purchased separately, each having more complex vocabulary, but similar types of analogies.

What’s My Logic (Critical Thinking Software)

This program requires inductive reasoning to generate and identify the rule that allows the user to move about the program. Items used can be visual (shape, color, and size) or verbal. Level of difficulty can be controlled.

Logical Thinking (Parrot Software)

This program challenges verbal analysis and interpretation by giving directions including conditions of directionality, basic numeracy, and color. Level of difficulty can be controlled.

Factory Deluxe (Sunburst Software)

This software challenges visual analysis, synthesis and sequencing through a series of increasingly complex construction tasks. The program teaches separate processes, and then requires the user to appropriately sequence the processes to achieve a finished product. Level of difficulty can be controlled.

 

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Auditory Processing (Cognitive Cluster) and Phonemic Awareness (Clinically Useful Cluster)

Definition

These interrelated areas involve processing of auditory information, with Phonemic Awareness serving as a subset of the broader area of Auditory Processing. Auditory Processing (AP) is the ability to analyze, synthesize, and discriminate auditory stimuli. It includes most of the abilities which are referred to as phonological awareness and phonological processing. It also includes the ability to understand speech that has been distorted or masked in some way. Phonemic Awareness, although not one of the CHC factor clusters, is a clinically useful cluster that may provide helpful diagnostic information. It focuses on the knowledge and skills related to analyzing and synthesizing speech sounds. It requires the individual to isolate different sound elements (phonemes) in a word and then analyze and interpret these sounds.

Assessment Measures

Auditory Processing

On the WJ III, the AP cluster includes two tests:

Sound Blending (Test 4)

A test of phonetic coding that measures skill in synthesizing language sounds (phonemes).

Auditory Attention (Test 14)

Measures the ability to understand oral language despite the presence of auditory distortions or masking of speech sounds. The WAIS-III does not specifically measure AP.

Phonemic Awareness

On the WJ III, Phonemic Awareness is measured by two tests:

Sound Blending (Test 4)

The same as in the Auditory Processing cluster.

Incomplete Words (Test 8)

Measures auditory analysis and closure in which a subject is asked to identify a word after hearing the word with one or more phonemes missing. The WAIS-III does not specifically measure Phonemic Awareness.

Functional Implications

A student with strength in this area is likely to be a proficient speller who can easily pronounce unfamiliar words using phonetic analysis.

A student with a deficit in auditory processing or phonemic awareness is likely to encounter difficulty in spelling and note-taking. If the student does take notes, he or she may not be able to interpret what was written because of the lack of sound-symbol correspondence. In addition, the student may have difficulty understanding lectures, particularly if there is any background noise that may interfere with auditory analysis, synthesis, and discrimination. The student with deficits in auditory processing or phonemic awareness may mispronounce syllables in words or confuse similar-sounding words.

Examples
  1. A student complains that she did poorly on a test because the instructions were not “pacific” [rather than “specific”] enough.
  2. A nursing student confuses digoxin and digitoxin or gives a patient Xanax instead of Zantac.
  3. An employee of a catering company is asked to put the “cake” on the table at a social function and is reprimanded because he put the “keg” on the table instead.

Instructional Goal

Students will practice identifying, discriminating, analyzing and segmenting phonemic sounds in isolation and in context.

Instructional Considerations

When phonemic awareness is a weakness in adults, the training process must be intensive over time. Initial and adjunct tasks associated with human voices and one-to-one interaction should be used to facilitate tactile awareness and to encourage functional application. Increases in difficulty and complexity of tasks should be gradual.

 

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Software Characteristics

Sound and graphics should be of high quality

Production of phonemic sounds should replicate human voice as closely as possible. Graphic demonstrations or identifications should also be clear.

Software should provide a variety of activities, be motivating, and yet not be childish

Because this type of practice can quickly become boring, it is important that a variety of tasks and reinforcements be available. Many of the software products for this skill have been developed for children, which can be demeaning for adult students.

Feedback should be educational

Information relevant to the correct answer should be highlighted (perhaps as cues), and there should be feedback to explain ways the inaccurate response did relate to the correct answer, and how it did not.

Software should require mastery before student can advance to a higher level

Some software allows the student to move ahead independently or with too little evidence of task mastery. Confusion and frustration will result if a student advances without complete mastery in this skill.

The software should control for carefully sequenced activities

Phonemic awareness involves skills that must develop in careful order. The instructor should be able to control which aspects of the program would be appropriate for the student at a given time.

Recommended Software

Fast ForWord Literacy/Literacy Advanced/Reading Prep (Scientific Learning)

This program uses a game format to systematically train auditory processing skills to improve listening and language processing (as a basis for reading and functional listening skills) from the phoneme to short paragraph level. The 50 minute protocol strongly recommends 5 days a week until all skills are mastered (approx. 6-8 weeks for most students).

Literacy lays the basic foundation and Literacy Advanced gives the students new ways to build the same skills as the information they process gets more complex and moves into more reading.

The research basis and individualization of the rate of delivery of the stimuli (via internet connection) to each student to keep them successful, but challenged and motivated, makes this the gold standard for software programs.

Students have to listen, watch and respond using a keyboard or mouse so other integrated skills are built as well, such as visual processing and visual memory, even though they are not a direct focus.

Locutour Literacy (Learning Fundamentals)

This set of programs helps set the foundation for reading using excellent visual presentations and video clips. It uses the format that Lindamood-Bell pioneered for auditory discrimination and practice using all modalities.

Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program CD-ROM (Gander Publishing)

Designed to be used in conjunction with instruction on phonemic awareness, this program provides additional practice with visual/auditory input.

Earobics (Cognitive Concepts)

This program provides auditory memory and auditory processing exercises for student practice.

Brain Fitness Program (Posit Science)

Through adaptive training that is continuously customized for an individual user’s brain performance, the training program clearly defines goals and shows progress history and achievments.

The training program stores complete training data and presents it in a user-friendly set of feedback/progress screens that occur at the end of each exercise and the end of each training session. In addition (optionally, at the user’s request), the training program securely and confidentially uploads all training data where more detailed analyses and feedback can be performed by a phone call to Posit customer service.

The training program presents instructional material in printed form (for reading-focused learning styles), in example form (for auditory learners), and through practice (for experiential learners); in addition the training exercises continuously adapt to the brain performance of each individual learner thus maximizing the learning that an individual performs.

 

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