Psychotherapist, training consultant and academic mentor, Genoveva Díaz, explains how to work with cognitive training to re-educate behavior.
1. An approach to cognitive processes and emotional processes
People are complex organisms with a brain that develops internal models of the world around us, to be able to interact with it in a flexible way, allowing us to adapt to changes. Or, put another way, we are predictive beings who use our brain to imagine different scenarios that allow us to test possible responses and anticipate possible outcomes, and once decisions are made, discard undesirable scenarios and choose the options that are most favorable to us.
With this idea, we have to start from the premise that no child will consciously choose to be the “disruptive”, “aggressive”, “lazy” or “absent-minded” of the class or family. If this happens, something is wrong with their cognitive processes. More specifically, in the cognitive processes that are in charge of controlling and regulating behavior.
2. The cognitive processes that make up behavior: the executive functions
What we ask of the healthy brain is that it allows us to carry out effective behavior (M. Lezak, 1982), socially acceptable, intelligent behavior (J. Tirapu Ústarroz, et al). We will achieve this after having planned a process of actions and making decisions for their execution. These cognitive processes are in charge of the executive functions, which are in the frontal lobe of the brain, and we can define them as the set of skills that allow us to program, regulate, control and execute our behavior to achieve our goals.
For all this, it is difficult to separate the cognitive from the emotional, because when the executive functions are set in motion, they do so in order for the person to function in a normalized and healthy way. To do this, they will combine information from what we know through our memory, to recover previous knowledge, attention to make an estimate of the results and the processing speed to make a decision.
3. Neurocognitive training
From the UpGrow office, when a family comes for consultation at the suggestion of the school or because they themselves have observed some disruptive behavior, we begin to work with the child through play. The game is a tool that allows us to know the person in its essence, because each game is an imaginary or fantastic representation of real or usual situations.
In the game there are some norms or rules of the game that must be known and respected. When we play the conscious brain relaxes, the information comes in without bias, allowing natural and lasting learning. There are many types of games, manipulative and multimedia, and we can use them to work on various cognitive processes and, consequently, behavioral.
Cognitive training with NeuronUP
The rehabilitation and cognitive stimulation platform NeuronUP, complements the psycho-pedagogical intervention that we do in the cabinet, because it is proposed in a playful and digital format. In the subject that concerns us, which is the re-education of behavior through neurocognitive training, we program sessions with activities that improve the following behavioral skills. To give an example:
If we want to complement our intervention in the case of a 7-year-old girl with attention difficulties, who has difficulties in the mathematical area, we are going to program sessions, in the NeuronUP training platform, with games that require the exercise of attention processes and that imply the use of logical-mathematical reasoning, gradually adding numerical activities.
At the beginning, we try to work on the mathematical competences in a way that is not very evident to the student, and thus avoid her finding a relationship with the contents of the school and having a negative reaction or rejection. Some examples of these games that combine attention and mathematics are:
- Organize the Farm: is a “sudoku” of drawings focused on working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning and reasoning.
- Counting Sounds: it presents a sequence of sounds that must be listened to with attention (sustained attention) in order to count them and give a result at the end. We are working on the executive functions of working memory and processing speed.
The attention through the audition, you can also work with the activity of Orchestra Conductor.
- To work reasoning, working memory and processing speed, there are several activities with numbers
- Put Numbers in Order: processing speed.
- Mixing Numbers: mathematical reasoning.
- Bottle Caps: working memory, sustained attention, heminegligence, inhibition.
4. Conclusions on behavioral re-education through cognitive training
The idea in writing this article is to make a quick approximation of how the functioning of our cognitive processes models our behavior. If a student feels that he or she has the right strategies to attend class, understand explanations, raise his or her hand, go out to the blackboard to solve a problem… therefore, a set of positive emotions accompany him or her that will motivate his or her effort and encourage “good” behavior.
If a child does not respond naturally to the expected, what we consider normalized or typical, something is happening and we will have to know what and intervene in it. Everything can be trained and improved.
“Life is like a game, in which we do not choose the starting point nor do we know the rules to start playing. It’s not about winning the game, it’s about enjoying it and growing”. Genoveva Díaz, 2019
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