A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2021 | Number 3, Volume 35

Attention training may improve children’s academic skills

Article Body

Attention training may lead to significant improvements in academic skills in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), according to a new study. 

In the double-blind study, Mayra Spaniol and colleagues worked with 26 children with ASD in a special children’s treatment unit in Brazil. The children participated in 45-minute training sessions twice a week for eight weeks. 

Half of the children used a computer program called CPAT (Computerised Progressive Attentional Training), while the other half played regular computer games. The CPAT program includes games targeting different types of attention with activities that increase in difficulty. 

Immediately after completing the sessions, the CPAT group showed significant improvements in the number of isolated words they could correctly identify and read and the number of words they could copy. They also improved their math scores by more than 50 percent. All of the improvements were maintained when the children were re-tested three months later. In contrast, the control group participants showed no evidence of improvement. 

The researchers note that their pilot study was small and their results need to be replicated in a larger population. However, they say their findings are similar to those of an earlier pilot study they conducted. 

Senior study author Carmel Mevorach comments, “It’s only recently that we have started to focus on the way autistic people pay attention in addition to, for example, how they interact and socialize. Attention is a fundamental cognitive process and better controlling it can have an impact on other behaviors, as well as on learning ability.”

Spaniol and colleagues found that children with ASD who underwent attention training did better in reading, writing, and math afterward.


“Attention training in children with autism spectrum disorder improves academic performance: A double-blind pilot application of the computerized progressive attentional training program,” Mayra Muller Spaniol, Carmel Mevorach, Lilach Shalev, Maria Cristina T. V. Teixeira, Rosane Lowenthal, and Christiane Silvestre de Paula, Autism Research, July 2021 (free online). Address: Mayra Muller Spaniol, Developmental Disorders Program, Mackenzie Presbyterian University, R. da Consolação, 930 Consolação, São Paulo SP, 01302-907, Brazil, [email protected]


“Autistic children can benefit from attention training, study finds,” news release, University of Birmingham, July 6, 2021.