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The Best Reading Remediation: Tackling the 3 Core Cognitive Skills

There are a plethora of reading programs that walk students through the rules, patterns and irregularities of our complicated English language, however, many students need to begin their remedial instruction by strengthening the core and foundational cognitive skills required to be a competent reader.

What Are the Core Cognitive Skills Required for Reading?
There are three main cognitive skills that students must strengthen to prepare them to read. Although there are other cognitive processing areas that the brain uses to read, such as executive functioning, spatial skills, and processing speed, here is a list and discussion of the primary ones:

1) Visual Processing: ability to scan and make sense of visual information and symbols.
Within the realm of visual processing are the following:
  • Visual Sequencing: ability to process visual information in a series or sequence.  Example: Accurately processing and comprehending a sequence of letters.
  • Visual Closure: ability to discern visual information when part of the image is missing.  Example: Accurately processing and comprehending a poorly copied page.
  • Visual Synthesis: ability to combine individual pieces of visual information into a comprehensible whole.  Example: Combining individual letters into a word.
  • Visual Discrimination: ability to distinguish similarities and differences in size, shape, pattern, form, position, and color.  Example: Telling the difference between letters and numbers that are similar in shape.
  • Visual Memory: ability to remember what is seen.  Example: Being able to recall what sight words look like.
  • Tracking: ability to accurately follow an object or words across the page.  Example: Reading words across a page and also from line to line.
2) Auditory Processing: ability to process and understand what is heard.  Because students "say the words in their heads" and also sounds blend together to make words, auditory processing is utilized while reading.  Within the realm of auditory processing are the following: 
  • Auditory Sequencing: ability to recall a series or sequence that is heard.  Example: Accurately processing and comprehending a sequence of sounds.   
  • Auditory Closure: ability to discern auditory information when part of the sounds or phonemes are missing.  Example: Accurately processing and comprehending someone that does not speak the English language proficiently - leaving out sounds.
  • Auditory Synthesis: ability to combine individual pieces of auditory information into a comprehensible whole.  Example: Blending sounds into words.
  • Auditory Discrimination: ability to detect differences in sounds.  Example: Telling the difference between similar sounds such as the short sounds of the letters "a" and "e."
  • Auditory Memory: ability to process, analyze and recall orally presented information.  Example: Being able to recall what sight words sound like.
3) Verbal Reasoning: ability to understand and reason with words.   
  • Higher Order Language:  ability to summarize information, make inferences, understand multiple meanings, comprehend non-literal meanings, glean the main idea and predict outcomes.   
  • Reading Comprehension:  Ability to understand what is read.  
How Can We Strengthen These Foundational Cognitive Skills?

Following Directions Primary:
Following Directions Primary, offers a 49-page download that includes coloring activities and process of elimination activities.  Cute animals and aliens as well as numbers, letters, shapes, and arrows are used to develop listening skills, linguistic abilities and the core cognitive skills needed for reading.  If you are interested in learning more about this publication and would like to download free activities click here.

Reversing Reversals Primary:
Reversing Reversals Primary strengthens the foundational cognitive skills needed for reading and math.  It also develops visual perception such as reversals that impacts students with dyslexia.  This publication is available as a download, and it offers 72 pages of activities as well as a game.  If you would like to learn more about this publication and also get free activities click here.  

By helping young learners to develop their core foundation before beginning reading instruction, you can assure that students will have the needed abilities and tools to succeed.  
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to &  
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