Cognitive self-regulation focuses on helping children use their brains more effectively.
Many children, particularly those on the autism spectrum, can have a rather fractured view of the world. They notice lots of details, some important and some not. They might not notice the bigger picture and don’t chunk together the myriad details they noticed. This can lead them to learning lots of facts
but not how to they come together. Think of an ever-expanding pile of collected bits and pieces. The number grows but they’re all in a jumble. Soon the pile reaches capacity and no more can be added. When things are in a jumble, it’s hard to find something when you want it. Unless those pieces can be organized, we’re pretty much at a standstill.
Well, that’s what happens when you don’t have strong cognitive self-regulation. When we teach cognitive self-regulation, children learn to look carefully and systematically – doing one thing at a time. They learn to figure out the most important and relevant information. This means also that they have to learn to ignore some bits.
Then they learn to put the bits and pieces together. They connect some of the new bits to other things they already know. They also form new concepts and categories of information. By organizing it, they can hang onto the information more readily. Also, it’s easier to find it when you need it. This is just like organizing things at home. If you put all mittens together, it’s easier to find a pair when you need them.
During this process, children are prompted to ask themselves if the information makes sense. This step involves checking if they understand – “Do I already know that?”, “Do I know what to do?” If they’re not sure, they’re taught to check things again and to ask for help if needed.
What we’ve described to this point helps make sure children take in complete, accurate, and relevant information. They learn to check it out to make sure they understand,. And they put it together in ways that make storing and remembering easier.
Cognitive self-regulation also involves learning how to talk about ideas so other people can understand. Children are taught how to organize their thoughts so they can explain their ideas and talk about things that happened.
In the coming months, we’ll describe each of these processes in greater detail.