Cognitive skills training has taken on a new emphasis in mental health facilities. Not only are mental health facilities either already teaching these classes or are thinking about teaching them, but other centers and facilities are also using them in their daily treatment models. Many adult day care facilities are expanding their services to include cognitive classes for their mentally ill population. As a new employee at a mental health facility, I can vouch that such a program is in place.
While intentions were well meant, many of the components of the present cognitive curriculum are outdated or useless. While the hospital psychologist put the program together, the content was formulated at least two decades ago. Since that time, research has increased on mental functioning, cognitive abilities, and how the brain functions as a complete unit, although it contains many different and distinct parts.
Luckily, I have been chosen to be on a new committee that will be rewriting the cognitive curriculum. While I may only have my bachelors and am not pretending to be even as half as smart as a person with a doctorate, I have been in the trenches and worked directly with mentally ill and mentally challenged individuals for close to 20 years. Therefore, I should have an idea of what a cognitive curriculum should look like.
The present curriculum is divided into various segments including the following:
1) Reading for meaning – which focuses on word finds and locating important words or letters.
2) Reading for comprehension – this involves reading short passages and answering questions about the passage.
3) Locating details – This includes looking at shapes and finding from a group of at least five shapes, the one that matches. It also involves “mentally” rotating the shape to find the correct one.
4) Synonyms – finding the correct synonym out of four possible choices.
5) Antonyms – same as above but with antonyms.
6) Finding how things are the same and different – this involves groups of words. The individual writes down which word is different, and then describes how the remaining ones are the same.
7) Finding analogies- this part simply lists common analogies, leaving off the last part, and asking the person to fill in the blank.
This is not an all-inclusive list of the contents, but it does focus on the main details. While some of the curriculum content was well thought out, I do not see the relevance with a lot of the material. Therefore, being on the cognitive committee, I did a bit of research. In doing so, I discovered what the focus of any cognitive curriculum should be.
The following lists the main points that should be included:
1) Focusing attention
2) Maintaining attention
3) New cognition, or learning new information
4) The way the brain learns and stores new information.
5) Reasoning and problem solving
6) Spatial and visual components of cognition
7) Ability to recall past events
8) Using spatial ability to judge distances
9) The acquisition and use of language
10) Using tactile senses to assemble things ( http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a785832786) (http://www.themcfox.com/multiple-sclerosis/ms-symptoms/cognitive.htm) (http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/laird/papers/nuxoll-2004-ICCM-epmem.PDF)
The list could continue as to what one would consider cognitive abilities. However, these are the most agreed upon components when I was conducting my research. Now that I know the basic compononts of cognitive thinking, it is one step in the right direction in assisting to recreate the cognitive curriculum. How exactly I will find material to supplement this endeavor might take a bit more time to put together. However, my main goal is to provide a positive, interesting, and meaningful curriculum for the intervals that I sever at the mental hospital I work at.