Cognitive Skills Training Pediatric Therapy

Cognitive problem-solving skills training attempts to decrease a child’s inappropriate or disruptive behaviors by teaching the child new skills for approaching situations that previously provoked negative behavior.

Using both cognitive and behavioral techniques and focusing on the child more than on the parents or the family unit, Cognitive problem-solving skills helps the child gain the ability to self-manage thoughts and feelings and interact appropriately with others by developing new perspectives and solutions. The basis of the treatment is the underlying principle that children lacking constructive ways to address the environment have problematic behaviors; teaching these children ways to positively problem-solve and challenge dysfunctional thoughts improves functioning.

Cognitive skill development in children involves the progressive building of learning skills, such as attention, memory, and thinking. These crucial skills enable children to process sensory information and eventually learn to evaluate, analyze, remember, make comparisons, and understand cause and effect. Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Working together, they take incoming information and move it into the bank of knowledge you use every day at school, at work, and in life.

Cognitive or thinking skills can affect the following:

  • Attention
  • Decision-making
  • Memory
  • Problem-solving
  • Safety awareness

Difficulties with such skills in children are associated with developmental delay, an injury to the brain, or as the result of trauma. Occupational Therapists (OTs) are trained to identify difficulties with cognition, and the impact these difficulties have on everyday skills. OTs work on improving skills and providing suggestions. For example; they can break down a task into steps (task analysis). This method may make it easier to perform the task.


There are key benchmarks of cognitive development by age. Here are some guidelines to help you determine whether your child is at risk.

  • By 7 months
    • Finds partially hidden object
    • Explores objects with hands and mouth
  • By 12 months
    • Explores objects in many ways (shaking, banging, throwing, dropping)
    • Finds hidden objects easily
    • Begins to use objects correctly (brushing hair, drinking from cup)
  • By 18 months
    • Imitates housework
  • By 24 months
    • Helps with undressing
    • Finds objects hidden under multiple covers
    • Begins to sort by shapes and colors
    • Begins to engage in parallel play
    • Begins make-believe play
  • By 3 years
    • Makes mechanical toys work
    • Plays make-believe with dolls and animals
    • Participates in cooperative play
    • Completes inset puzzles with 3-4 pieces
    • Undresses self
    • Toilet training begins
  • By 4 years
    • Correctly names colors
    • Understands the concept of counting
    • Begins to understand time
    • Understands the concept of “same” and “different”
  • By 5 years/school entry
    • Can count 10 or more objects
    • Knows about the use of everyday items (food, money)
    • Develops reasoning skills
    • Learn through language and logic/reasoning
    • The child shows a strong desire to learn
  • 6 years +
    • Able to solve more complex problems
    • Individual learning style becomes more clear-cut
    • Can solve simple math problems using objects

We would be happy to discuss any concerns you have about your child’s cognitive skills. We offer assessment and therapy to assist with the issues mentioned above.

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