Cognition and Speech development

Cognition and Speech development

What is cognition?

In this blog, we will be discussing what is cognition? How cognition and speech development are related? Some other aspects related to cognition. Now, the word cognition may look like a fancy big term but it’s not. Cognition is the process of learning to reason, think and understand various stimuli in our environment. It includes attention, memory, logic, problem solving, etc. In simple terms, how we think, remember pay attention, and learn. There is a debate among researchers. Whether language is a part of cognition or a separate entity. Cognition is essential for brain development. There are different types of cognition, emotional, social, etc.  An example of cognitive processing would be: if you are at a grocery store, you look for items on your list. You make a selection among different brands. You follow the signs and make your way to the cashier.

Why is cognition important?

Before we jump into the relationship between language and cognition and why is it important for children. I will list out some reasons as to why cognition is important.

  1. Cognition affects everything in our life. Right from childhood to adulthood. Work, studies, and relationships.
  2. Children need cognition to learn a new concept. Kids pay attention (a cognitive skill) and learn new concepts and skills. Even language is learned by paying attention to differences in speech sound.
  3. Kids require memory to store the information. They store these sounds and other concepts to be used later.
  4. What is required to make a decision? It requires problem-solving, reasoning, logic, and selection. All these are essential cognitive processes. This helps them in understanding graphs in schools, intercept the teacher, analyze various things.
  5. Children perceive a lot of information through touch, smell, visual and auditory input. This needs to be converted into signals and sent to the brain. So that their brain can act on these. This is a part of cognition, perceiving the world around you. Faster the processing faster is their reaction time.
  6. Kids experience a lot of things. This needs to be stored as concepts and ideas to use later. This is again part of cognition, formulating impressions.
  7. When the brain can’t recall a piece of information it fills in the gaps, for example, a sound or word.
  8. Cognition not only affects things inside kids’ heads but outside as well. Their attention, memory, problem-solving, and judgments contribute to how they behave and interact with the environment.

Development of cognition

You might think cognition develops later in life or as kids grow up. No, cognition starts developing as soon as the baby is born. The very first signs of cognitive development are, figuring out object permanence. That is an object exists even if it is out of sight.  In infants and toddlers, cognition develops through touch, feel, and everyday sensory-motor experiences. They understand cause and effect. How to reach one object using another. Imitation is also a cognitive skill.

A simple skill such as following an object or turning pages is a cognitive skill. As they grow older, understanding how things fit in space, figuring out how a toy works are some other cognitive skills that develop. Even developing language is a cognitive skill such as understanding and expressing words. By the age of 5, social and emotional cognitive processes play a vital role. For example, making friends, understanding feelings, negotiating, decision-making games are all cognitive skills.

Correlation between speech and cognition

This is the most debated topic. What is the correlation between cognition and speech and language development? In my opinion, both are interrelated. One cannot develop without the other. Kids require cognitive skills such as attention to grasp the sounds made by the mother. They need to process and store these in their long and short-term memory for further use. They need to differentiate between sounds. Build vocabulary and form patterns. This pattern-building skill will help kids to learn the grammar of the language. Understanding the sentence structure, pattern of sentences, etc. In later stages, cognitive skills such as problem-solving, feelings, understanding body language, decision making will help them build relationships with peers. It will also help them during play. Reasoning and logic will help kids to understand academic as well as everyday aspects. For example, why does it rain, or why do we eat food?

But, cognition is also dependent on language. For example, if language isn’t developing typically, but cognition is intact. Kids cannot express their logic or reasoning. The means of expressing cognition is through language. Until the age of 3 years, it is difficult to differentiate between cognition and language.

You can read more about development milestones here: Milestones 

Impact of cognition on speech

Delayed cognitive skills can cause a delay in understanding language. This means, understanding different concepts such as prepositions, following directions, and adjectives. This will in turn lead to a delay in talking. They may also have academic difficulties. Kids will also face difficulty with reasoning, forming relations, and understanding social rules. Cognition affects overall development in children.


How to develop cognition?

The importance of interaction and play with your child has been stressed in various blogs by 1specialplace. By playing and interacting with them, you are fostering not only their language skills but also cognition. Some more points are:

  1. Let your baby explore toys and move
  2. Singing and reading
  3. Answering why questions
  4. Talking to them
  5. Provide them with choices and help them make thoughtful decisions.
  6. Let them figure things out. You can provide a gentle nudge and push here and there. Don’t solve problems for them. Encourage them to think instead.
  7. Let them make mistakes. Yes, you heard that right. This will develop their problem-solving skill.
  8. Creative activities and pretend play.


Red flags for identifying cognitive delay:

If your child misses several other milestones such as a late walker or late talker then a cognitive delay is also suspected. But this is not always the case. Some other signs could be, a delay in understanding language. Delay in talking. Skills like object permanence cause and effect or imitation have not developed. It is important to visit a pediatrician and SLP in this case. Early intervention and treatment will reduce the impact on overall development.

To conclude, kids with delays in cognition will have difficulty in a broad range of skills. These include language and academics.  Treatment and early intervention will help them immensely. It will bridge the gap between cognition and speech development of your child. If you are a parent, I hope this information helped you understand what is going on with your child. If you are a therapist, you can use this to counsel your clients. It is up to us to help families understand the depth of a child’s issues. We provide hope that therapy, along with consistent parental commitment, can make a huge difference!

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