A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

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

Fall, 2017 | Number 4, Volume 31

Attention training shows promise for students with ASD

Computerized activities designed to improve attention skills may benefit young children with autism, according to a new study. 

Mayra Muller Spaniol and colleagues enrolled 15 young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) from two different schools (one mainstream and one special needs school) in a two-month intervention. Eight children participated in activities that are included in the Computerised Progressive Attentional Training program and are designed to foster three types of attention: 

• Sustained attention, or the ability to attend for a prolonged time. 

• Selective-spatial attention, or the ability to focus on relevant stimuli while ignoring distractions. 

• Executive attention, or the ability to solve conflicts and inhibit irrelevant information. 

A control group of seven students played video games and received one-on-one attention from an experimenter. 

The researchers say, “Overall, the data indicated promising comprehensive improvements for the children in the CPAT intervention group, which were over and above any improvements obtained in the control group in attention and academic performance.” In particular, they say, children in the CPAT group showed improvement in math, reading comprehension, and copying speed, and their scores on a non-verbal cognitive assessment improved. Teachers and aides also detected more improvements in academic skills and attention in the CPAT group, even though the educators believed that all children were taking part in an attention-training program. 

The researchers say that the results of CPAT training are promising and the program appears to be feasible for use in both mainstream and special schools, but they note that their findings need to be replicated in a larger group of children.


“Attention training in autism as a potential approach to improving academic performance: A school-based pilot study,” Mayra Muller Spaniol, Lilach Shalev, Lila Kossyvaki, and Carmel Mevorach, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, November 8, 2017 (epub prior to print publication). Address: Mayra Muller Spaniol, [email protected]