Ruthie Rule, Whitfield County Coordinator for Exceptional Students, uses a cognitive cross-training program in pull-out sessions with RTI Tier 2 and special education students. This reliable intervention tool focuses on improving executive function.
For many schools, one of the biggest challenges to developing a well-functioning RTI program is an effective Tier 2 system. Tiered instruction is the key to any Response-to-Intervention model. Without a strong middle tier, it can be challenging to systematically provide early intervention for students at risk. Offering a quality Tier 2 system, takes a combination of the right assessments, tools and strategies, but most important it take having the right information to make the right decisions for the children in our care. For some schools, a quality cognitive training system is an easy to implement and reliable intervention tool that can be used to both assess and improve the area of weakness.
RTI Assessments Should Include a Measure of Executive Function
A cognitive training program can be used as a supplemental intervention for identified RTI Tier 2 and special education students. Focused on executive function, the program plays the role of a brain detective, getting into the mind of the child and identifying the underlying cognitive weakness of the student’s tier 2 designation. Cognitive strengths of each student will also be identified. Assessment data based on the NIH Toolbox of tests of executive function is available after only six sessions. This information is vital because it provides real, tangible data that begins to explain the reason behind the academic or behavioral delay in the child. More information is provided comparing each child’s progress through the 100’s of difficulty levels of the training exercises to hundreds of other same age children; further identifying areas of both strengths and weaknesses which aren’t always apparent.
Using Cognitive Cross-Training in Group Tier 2
One of the ways to use the data generated from the cognitive training program is to group students according to their core cognitive weak- ness. By grouping kids into areas of greatest executive weakness, the underlying weakness can be addressed, along with the academic or behavioral symptom. An example is to can group kids according to any one of eight core cognitive capacities. Teachers can then use this in- formation to strategically pick and choose the right activities that will strengthen the underlying cognitive weakness. Once the children are grouped, they can then easily engage in the group activities designed to strengthen that particular executive function skill. They may also receive additional attention and stimulation through specific physical exercises in the ACTIVATE™ program.
• Sustained Attention
• Working Memory
• Speed of Processing
• Response Inhibition
• Cognitive Flexibility
• Category Formation
• Pattern Recognition
• Multiple Simultaneous Attention
For example, let’s say you have a class of twelve Tier 2 students that have played the brain games, as well as completed the first and middle NIH Assessments and you’ve identified the areas of cognitive weak- ness. You could then break the class into groups according to area of weakness and provide targeted group intervention to this group of students.
Finding Time to Implement a Cognitive Cross-Training Program
Implementing a cognitive cross-training program takes three to five 20-minute sessions each week and schools and districts are achieving this in many different ways, according to their particular set of needs and time schedule. For example:
• Before School Programs
• After School Programs
• During Computer Lab
• Pullout Sessions
The program’s web-based format allows for easy accessibility at home.
Monitoring the Progress in Executive Function Skills
Four NIH assessments create a standard and make it simple to analyze the effectiveness of the cognitive cross-training intervention. These assessments were chosen after a careful review of everything available from the NIH Toolbox by the C8 Scientists. The assessments were chosen because research has shown that they are especially appropriate for measuring the executive functioning skills of young children.
The NIH assessments are given three times during the course: at the beginning, middle and end of the program. In addition, program data captured from every click and hesitation is used to generate reports, which provide additional data and reports about each child’s areas of relative strengths and weaknesses among the eight core cognitive capacities measured. Data includes progress and mastery of game levels, plateau levels, time spent on the program and the average amount of trials before the child was able to succeed at that level. This data is beneficial in monitoring the progress of participating students.
Parent Teacher Alignment:
Using the Same Cognitive Cross-Training Strategies at School and at Home
Parent and teacher alignment is key when working with children at an RTI tier 2 or special education level. With the cognitive training program ACTIVATE™ parents and teachers can stay on the same page using a series of reports that gives insight into what is happening inside the brain of the student. For some, a simple graph visually showing the area of cognitive strength and weakness is enough to lay the foundation for a productive conversation designed to benefit the child in question. Since ACTIVATE™ is a web-based program, it can be used in both school and home allowing parents to see and under- stand what their child is doing, and recognize their child’s progress. Also, for further stimulation additional physical exercises and strategies can be used in the home as well.