UEL Baby Dev Lab

First evidence of the feasibility of gaze-contingent attention training for school children with autism.

Powell, G., Wass, S. V., Erichsen, J. T., & Leekam, S. R. 2016. Autism

A number of authors have suggested that attention control may be a suitable target for cognitive training in children with autism spectrum disorder. This study provided the first evidence of the feasibility of such training using a battery of tasks intended to target visual attentional control in children with autism spectrum disorder within school-based settings. Twenty-seven children were recruited and randomly assigned to either training or an active control group. Of these, 19 completed the initial assessment, and 17 (9 trained and 8 control) completed all subsequent training sessions. Training of 120 min was administered per participant, spread over six sessions (on average). Compliance with the training tasks was generally high, and evidence of within-task training improvements was found. A number of untrained tasks to assess transfer of training effects were administered pre- and post-training. Changes in the trained group were assessed relative to an active control group. Following training, significant and selective changes in visual sustained attention were observed. Trend training effects were also noted on disengaging visual attention, but no convincing evidence of transfer was found to non-trained assessments of saccadic reaction time and anticipatory looking. Directions for future development and refinement of these new training techniques are discussed.