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Autism Spectrum Disorder: Training Weak Cognitive Skills

In recent years, the medical community has broadened its reference of autism to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Although the new term covers a wide range of deficits and functions, it provides no more insight into an individual’s cognitive abilities.

One test that can help identify weak brain skills associated with learning struggles is a cognitive skills assessment.

Identifying and targeting weak brain skills

Cognitive skills, also known as “brain skills,” are the fundamental tools we need to learn, read, remember, and pay attention. They include: attention, auditory processing, and memory, along with visual processing, logic & reasoning, and processing speed.

Using a gold-standard of cognitive skills testing, it’s possible to identify which brain skills are weak. Although is some cases a single weak cognitive skill can cause learning struggles, for people on the autism spectrum, it’s common to see a cluster of weak cognitive skills.

Unlike digital brain games, one-on-one brain training uses customized exercises and incorporates immediate feedback, intensity, and loading, among other features, to target brain skills. And while tutoring is academics-based, personal brain training is skills-based. Tutoring does have its place: it can be effective when a student has fallen behind in specific subjects (such as math) due to an illness, injury or family move. But cognitive skills training targets the underlying skills—including attention, auditory processing, memory, logic & reasoning, processing speed and visual processing—needed to perform tasks (like reading) and make learning easier in any subject.

Results of personal brain training for students with ASD

Between 2010 and 2015, 857 clients came to LearningRx with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. The average age was 11.9. Using the Woodcock-Johnson III – Tests of Cognitive Abilities both pre- and post-training showed significant improvements for all cognitive skills.

Overall, the largest gains were seen in auditory processing and long-term memory, followed by logic & reasoning, working memory, and broad attention.

The average pre-training IQ score was 92 and the average post-training IQ score was 101. The average age-equivalent gain in cognitive skill performance was 3.1 years.

Results ReportIn addition to clinical data, anecdotal evidence from parents of children with ASD can help explain how personal brain training helped target and train cognitive skills.

Matthew Evans of Chattanooga, for example, came to LearningRx with an ASD diagnosis. He was at risk of being retained for another school year and struggled with reading, memory and comprehension issues, as well as low confidence.

After completing a LearningRx personal brain training program, Matthew’s mom says that he started reading, having conversations with other kids and demonstrating more confidence. When he went back for a new school year, his teachers were amazed at his progress. His mom says LearningRx took the “hard parts of autism and the things he couldn’t understand and made them bearable.” Now Matthew plans to be a veterinarian.

Watch Matthew’s video here:

If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, call your local LearningRx Brain Training Center to schedule a cognitive skills assessment. Once the weak brain skills are identified, a customized program will target and train those skills.