All about Making Cognitive Connections

The purpose of the Making Cognitive Connections project is to provide training materials for individuals living with brain injuries and other cognitive challenges. Training relates to the use of a smart mobile device (such as an iPhone, iPad, or Android device) as a “helper” with memory and cognitive skills. The training materials include books, videos, and articles designed with the specific needs of those living with cognitive challenges in mind.

The Making Cognitive Connections approach

The MCC approach teaches the basic technical skills necessary to use a smartphone or similar device. At the same time, it points out the cognitive skills that one needs in order to do each step. Focusing on the cognitive skills required to use the device—and then having the users apply those same cognitive skills to their everyday lives—makes this approach practical, concrete, relevant, and transferable.

What does all that mean in practice? For each smart device function, users will:

  • Learn about what it is and how to do it;
  • Follow steps to perform that function on the device;
  • Make the cognitive connections by learning what cognitive skills are being used to perform the task; and
  • Identify examples from everyday life which require use of the same cognitive skills.

Targeted cognitive skills

So what kinds of cognitive skills are we talking about? Here are several examples, along with examples of how each skill is used with regard to both smart devices and everyday life.

Attention to Detail

Paying attention to all parts of a task, no matter how small
Smart device examples
Find the GPS button
Put the stylus back into its storage location
Life examples
Check your writing for spelling errors
Find spots on laundry to spray before washing
Put your keys back into their storage location


Storing and recalling information, events or procedures
Smart device examples
Remember the steps necessary to record an appointment
Life examples
Remember how to change a vacuum cleaner filter
Remember how to retrieve messages from your answering machine

Visual Memory

Storing and retrieving from memory a previously seen image
Smart device examples
Identify the Contacts button
Life examples
Identify the face of your doctor or the corner where you need to turn to go to her office


Performing the steps of a task in logical order
Smart device examples
Follow the correct steps to record an appointment
Life examples
Decide which bills to pay first
Figure out the most efficient order for running errands


Grouping objects or ideas together according to common features
Smart device examples
Identify an appointment with the optometrist as appropriate for the medical category
Life examples
Sort the laundry into piles for each family member or into darks and lights
Sort the mail into bills, junk mail, things to read later, etc.

Following Directions

Completing all steps of written or spoken instructions
Smart device examples
Follow the instructions to edit a recurring appointment whose meeting place has been changed for one time only
Life examples
Follow the instructions to put together a crib
Follow a recipe to bake a pie

Time Management

Planning and monitoring your schedule to ensure the most important tasks are completed
Smart device examples
Determine how much lead time to allow in setting a reminder alarm
Life examples
Determine how long it will take you to take a shower and get dressed so you can leave the house on time
Determine how long various dishes need to cook so they will all be ready to serve at the same time

Making Cognitive Connections training features

  • Presents information in easy-to-follow steps
  • Focuses on practical, day-to-day activities related to using a smart mobile device for memory compensation
  • Includes integrated review and reference of cognitive skills throughout the learning process
  • Bases its design on feedback from individuals living with cognitive challenges