Cognitive training programs are all the rage lately with claims that they improve all kinds of executive functions. Given the link between executive functioning skills deficits and challenging behavior, you can imagine that we here at Think:Kids have been quite interested in this topic. We favor skills training approaches that are relational, naturalistic and experiential like our Collaborative Problem Solving process. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t welcome other proven approaches to building cognitive skills, especially ones that could be easily disseminated to millions of kids and families.
A recent NY Times article reviews some of the research on cognitive training programs, and the early verdict appears anything but convincing. Some promising and exciting results but overall a concern that the improvements that are shown don’t generalize beyond the tasks themselves. That is, if your child regularly plays the types of games included in a cognitive training program, they are likely to show improved performance on those cognitive tasks – while playing the games! But the improvements don’t appear to generalize to tasks outside the training in “real life.” Coincidentally, one of the many advantages of the skills training that happens when you practice structured problem solving over real life problems is that there is no need for generalization. And it doesn’t cost anything to try to collaborate with your child to solve a problem!
At any rate, we will keep an eye on the research and keep you posted.