Dr. Karina Poirier discusses the importance of organization in the acquisition of learning and the completion of everyday task.
In most people, responses are produced more-or-less automatically: for example, getting up in the morning and feeling hungry. You want breakfast, so you go to the kitchen and make it. You don’t need to think about it much; you know hunger means you need food, you know there’s food in the kitchen, and you know you have to prepare and eat it.
The problem here is hunger. The solution is eating. Yet if just one of the cognitive processes connecting the two is compromised due to injury or impairment to your brain’s prefrontal lobes, you may not be able to solve this easy task.
Suppose you can’t identify the problem. You feel hungry, but you don’t associate hunger with eating. The problem remains unsolved. If memory is impaired, you know you’re hungry and that eating will solve that problem…but you can’t remember where the food is. Or maybe you remember that much, but have no idea how to prepare it. It’s easy to see how even something as simple as this can be devastating to a normal lifestyle.
Organization and Memory
The relationship between cognitive organization and memory breaks down into three basic components:
- Conceptual structure: the mental “map” you have of relationships and principles. For example, you know you can’t fit in a shoebox.
- Process: the creation of relationships. You learn that if you’re good, Mom will give you a treat.
- Product: a set of identifiable relationships among organized objects or ideas. You know what spoons and forks are for, or learn how to get rewards for good behavior.
In typical children, this automatic organization jumpstarts the learning process. You can then take skills learned from experience and apply them to new situations. Just as you know you can’t fit inside a shoebox, it stands to reason that Dad’s car won’t fit in the fridge.
While this may seem like a silly example, for many children with cognitive impairment, it isn’t. Imagine what life would be like if it weren’t obvious that you make the connection between rewards for good behavior couldn’t fit in a shoebox. What if you couldn’t make the connection between rewards for good behavior and scolding for bad behavior? These are issues that children with cognitive disorders face every single day.
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