Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 592–610 | Cite as

Attention Training in Autism as a Potential Approach to Improving Academic Performance: A School-Based Pilot Study

  • Mayra Muller SpaniolEmail author
  • Lilach Shalev
  • Lila Kossyvaki
  • Carmel Mevorach
Original Paper


This study assessed the effectiveness of an attention intervention program (Computerized Progressive Attentional Training; CPAT) in improving academic performance of children with ASD. Fifteen 6–10 year olds with ASD attending a mainstream and a special school were assigned to an experimental (CPAT; n = 8) and active control (computer games; n = 7) group. Children were assessed pre- and post-intervention on measures of behavioural symptoms, cognitive skills and academic performance. The intervention was conducted in school twice a week for 8 weeks. Children in the CPAT group showed cognitive and academic improvements over and above the active control group, while children in both groups showed improvements in behaviour. Results suggest that attention training is a feasible approach to improving academic performance in this population.


Autism Attention training Computerized training Academic performance School-based intervention 



We thank the research assistants Anjli Pattni, Marianna Ruiz and Polly Brayfield for their hard work assisting the conduction of the intervention and assessments. Mayra Muller Spaniol was supported by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES; BEX: 2903/13-0).


This work was conducted during a scholarship supported by the International Cooperation Program CAPES at the University of Birmingham. Financed by CAPES—Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education within the Ministry of Education of Brazil, BEX: 2903/13-0.

Authors Contribution

MMS was the principal researcher, participated in the study design, coordination, performed the measurements, performed the statistical analysis, interpretation of the data and drafted the manuscript; LS conceived of the study, participated in the design and interpretation of the data; LK participated in the design and coordination of the study; CM conceived of the study, participated in the design of the study, interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental DisordersUniversidade Presbiteriana MackenzieSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.School of Education and the Sagol School of NeuroscienceTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  3. 3.School of EducationUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  4. 4.School of PsychologyUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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