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Cognition (mental or learning)

Cognition refers to thinking activities of the brain. People with a cognitive disability may have difficulty understanding or remembering things they see, hear or learn or in how they communicate. Often, they can do all of these things with some extra help and extra time. Some people with cognitive disabilities have a congenital disability – that is one that exists at birth. Others have acquired a brain injury because of an accident they have had.

Some common types of cognitive disabilities are:

  • Autism. Autism is a condition that affects a person’s ability to interact and communicate with others. Someone with less severe autism may not seem much different than someone who is not autistic but may struggle to get along with other people. Someone with more severe autism may be non-verbal – and instead of speaking may use sign language or picture books to communicate.
  • Brain Injury. A person may injure his/her brain during a car accident, a fall off a bike or any other accident that causes an injury to the skull and brain. Some brain injuries are temporary, and the person may get better over time, others are more permanent and can significantly change the person’s life. A brain injury can be mild or severe. The amount of damage can change how a person does things like walking and talking.
  • Developmental Delay. Someone with developmental delay may have difficulty paying attention for long periods of time, or remembering something he/she has learned. Also, he/she may act younger than his/her actual age.
  • Down’s Syndrome. People with Down’s Syndrome are born with an extra number 21 chromosome. This causes some different traits including differences in facial features, and low muscle tone.

People with cognitive disabilities are living active lives and achieving their full potential because of advances in the treatment of cognitive impairments.

People in the News

David McElwain

David McElwain goes to Greece Athena High School and was the manager of the 2007 boy’s basketball team. On the last game of the season, the coach allowed David to dress in uniform with the team. David has autism and spends some of his school day in classes with his non-disabled classmates. This was the first time he dressed with the basketball team and he was very excited.