Characteristics of Students with Cognitive Disabilities

Characteristics of Students with Cognitive Disabilities

Villanova students with cognitive disabilities meet the same competitive requirements for admission as all other Villanova students. As a group, they are intelligent, creative, and dedicated to their studies.

The following are some of the classic academic characteristics that students may display in the classroom. Each student is different and therefore, the severity of the disability is different. Many students experience some difficulty in a number of these categories.

A student that exhibits some of the oral and written language difficulties mentioned below is not necessarily cognitive disabled. However, students with cognitive disabilities may have trouble in most of the areas, though the exact degree of difficulty will vary.

The most critical issue for students with cognitive disabilities is constantly facing a shortage of time. Everything takes longer for them, so the student will often experience fatigue and frustration. The student is usually taught under a traditional education system which may test to their disabilities rather than their strengths. Students cannot change the way they process information, but they can learn to compensate for their disability and make use of techniques that will strengthen their skills.

Attention and Concentration

  • difficulty focusing and maintaining attention on academic tasks
  • short, but intense attention span; tasks will either bore or hold attention of student for long periods of time; student can seem off task
  • easily distracted by even a minimal level of noise
  • disorganization accompanied by snap decisions; often loses things; careless errors
  • difficulty juggling multiple task demands or abrupt change in direction
  • distorted sense of time; unaware how long it will take to do something
  • get tired or overloaded quickly; need frequent breaks when studying
  • hyperactivity and excessive movements may accompany the inability to focus

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Foreign Language Skills

  • difficulties associated with short-term memory, syntax, and auditory discrimination
  • decoding and encoding difficulties
  • difficulty reading aloud; slow in oral performance
  • difficulty producing comprehensible responses
  • spelling difficulties

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Mathematical Skill

  • often have incomplete mastery of basic facts
  • confuse operational symbols, such as + for x
  • number reversals
  • copy problems incorrectly or put numbers on wrong line
  • difficulty recalling sequence of operations
  • difficulty with word problems
  • difficulty in applying problem solving concepts

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Memory

  • cannot quickly retrieve names from memory
  • difficulty memorizing strings of numbers or letters
  • frequently lose or forget things
  • often will forget basic information such as the year, their age, friends' names, or names of places

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Oral Language

  • difficulty with sequencing when telling a story
  • difficulty with oral directions
  • difficulty pronouncing words
  • difficulty expressing ideas orally, even when they seem to understand
  • difficulty comprehending while reading aloud
  • unable to concentrate on and to comprehend spoken language when presented rapidly, which causes great difficulty in taking class notes

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Organizational and Study Skills

  • organization problems in written notes and compositions
  • poor time management
  • difficulty in organizing tasks into manageable parts
  • difficulty in getting started on a project and completing it
  • repeated inability to recall what has been taught on a day to day basis
  • inefficient use of resources
  • inefficient preparation for tests and taking tests

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Psychological Barriers

  • takes a long time to get focused and get thoughts organized
  • frustration associated with unsuccessful attempts to read, write, spell and speak correctly
  • anxious about deadlines
  • anxious about filling out forms, applications, or using the phone

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Reading

  • often have a slow reading rate and/or difficulty adjusting the rate to the material
  • skip words, lose place, mistake one word for another
  • difficulty reading for long periods of time; often will fall asleep or experience headaches
  • uneven comprehension and retention of what they read
  • often need to reread material due to lack of attention or misreading
  • difficulty identifying important details
  • reading literally: problems with tone, metaphors and words with more than one meaning

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Social Skills

  • difficulties in interpreting social cues that may result in lowered self-esteem or cause students to have trouble meeting people or working cooperatively with others
  • unable to distinguish subtle changes in tone of voice
  • difficulty in recognizing the difference between sincere and sarcastic comments

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Spelling

  • letter reversal
  • dropping or adding letters
  • misspelling of common words and unfamiliar words

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Testing

  • unable to complete exam in the allotted time although material is understood
  • blanking out at exams
  • difficulty transferring responses to an answer sheet
  • difficulty narrowing down a multiple-choice question to one response
  • difficulty interpreting directions without an example

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Writing

  • frequent spelling errors and poor sentence structure
  • student may have a weak sense of grammar and unable to recognize run-on sentences
  • often has poor penmanship - will often print
  • difficulty proofreading their own work and making revisions; they often have more success finding errors in another's work
  • slow written production
  • difficulty copying from a book, board, or overhead
  • difficulty forming thesis statements
  • inconsistent mistakes
  • difficulty in planning a topic and organizing thoughts on paper

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