Autism and Cognitive Skills Development: 4 Things You Need to Know
For children on the autism spectrum, learning doesn’t come easy. They commonly struggle with weak cognitive skills which make taking in information difficult and sometimes impossible. Facilitating the learning process for your autistic child starts by understanding these cognitive weaknesses and seeking early intervention to boost these skills. Here are four things we think you should know as you get started!
Autism can affect attention
Attention is an important cognitive skill—one that’s responsible for allowing information in. That’s why it’s considered a gatekeeper skill.
When attention is weak and information doesn’t get past the “gate,” it can’t be wrestled with, made sense of and stored in the long-term memory bank. As a result, children with weak attention skills often also manifest weak long-term memory, short-term memory and processing speed skills.
When a child points to objects and gestures to their parent to get their attention, this is referred to as joint attention. Joint attention goes both ways and makes it easy for a child and his or her parents to share in an activity and communicate non-verbally. When this skill is weak, a child struggles to pay attention when their loved one reads them a book, points to an object and identifies it or uses facial expressions that reinforce their words.
Autism can affect language development
One early sign of autism is slow language development—the result of weak auditory processing skills. While their peers are starting to coo, repeat sounds and use some recognizable words, engaging delightfully with their parents and other loved ones, autistic children may be non-verbal or speak very little. Some autistic children don’t develop any language in the first few years of their lives. They may not respond to their name or other auditory stimuli.
Autism can affect executive functioning
Executive skills build off of gatekeeper skills so when those skills are weak, they affect skills up the chain.
Executive skills help a child manage and control their thoughts and behaviors. Autistic children can struggle socially because they act impulsively, act out or engage in repetitive behaviors like rocking or hand flapping.
Executive skills help a child adjust to new situations. Autistic children often struggle in school, particularly when it’s time to switch to a different subject or class period. They may be combative when it’s time to leave the house to run errands. They may become upset when a grandparent or friend leaves after a visit. Any kind of change in their environment can be difficult.
Executive skills such as logic and reasoning help a child plan steps needed to accomplish a task. Because they have a difficult time absorbing new information and moving it into their long-term memory banks, learning steps in a process poses a challenge for many children with autism. Whether it’s tying their shoes or following an after-school routine of unloading their backpacks and taking out their homework, an autistc child can frustrate easily when trying to follow a series of steps or work towards a goal.
Your child sees the world differently
If you’re raising an autistic child, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your child sees the world differently and there is so much beauty in that! A child with autism will often display cognitive strengths such as attention to detail and have the ability to memorize vast amounts of information that is interesting to them. One day, they may niche down into a field of study and make great contributions in that field!
Brain training is an effective way to boost weak cognitive skills and help a child with autism learn and communicate easier. Over the course of nine years, LearningRx centers worked with 1,049 children diagnosed with autism. After engaging them in brain training specific to their needs, they saw incredible gains! Long-term memory skills improved an average of 3.3 years. In addition to long-term memory, the greatest gains were in broad attention and auditory processing.
If you’d like to learn more about how brain training can help your child live a more well-adjusted life, contact us here!
Keyword: autism and cognitive skills