Assessments for thinking processes are carried out using three methods: cognitive flexibility, cognitive inhibition, and sustained attention.
Cognitive flexibility is the ability to think flexibly and to transition from thinking about once concept to another.
The importance of cognitive flexibility
Greater cognitive flexibility will allow the individual to be more flexible in their thinking and to switch their behavioural response depending on changes in the environment.
Measuring cognitive flexibility
We measure cognitive flexibility using the Dimensional Change Card Sort task from the NIH Toolbox on a computer tablet. Pictures are presented and the child matches the pictures based on either the dimension of ‘shape’ or ‘colour’. The dimension for sorting is indicated by a cue word on the screen.
Cognitive inhibition is one of the core cognitive skills that we use to control our thinking and behaviour. It is the ability to inhibit and control our cognitive responses by tuning out information that is irrelevant to the current task.
The importance of cognitive inhibition
Children who struggle with cognitive inhibition may find it difficult to control their impulses to stop thinking or doing something.
Measuring cognitive inhibition
We measure cognitive inhibition using the Flanker task from the NIH Toolbox. This task measures inhibitory control and attention. The child is asked to focus on the fish in the middle – and to choose the arrow that matches the way the fish is pointing - while inhibiting attention to the fish next to it.
Sustained attention is the ability to focus on an activity or task over a longer period of time.
The importance of sustained attention
Children who struggle with sustained attention may find it difficult to focus their attention for the required time and avoid distraction, making it difficult to successfully complete tasks. It is a core cognitive skill because it is important that a child can control, direct and modulate their attention.
Measuring sustained attention
We use a task called Pursuit from the Amsterdam Neuropsychological Tasks (ANT). In the Pursuit task, the child has to follow a green star moving in unpredictable directions by using the computer mouse. The child’s ability to maintain their performance is assessed across the 5-minute duration of the task.