Attention and executive function training in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Many children with ASD experience significant difficulties with attention and executive function. This research will investigate the effects of a direct attention and executive function training intervention in children ages 6 to 12 with ASD (high functioning). Research has shown that it is possible to improve attention and executive functioning in children with various neuropathologies. Participants will complete pre and post testing of their attention, executive function, social, academic, and behavioral functioning. Children will then be randomly assigned to an active treatment (1) or waitlist control group (2). Group 1 will start the intervention immediately, whereas Group 2 will start once Group 1 has finished. Our methodology will allow all participants to receive intervention, while controlling for factors that may be unrelated to the active intervention. The intern will deliver the intervention over 8 to 10 weeks (24, 30 minute sessions). The intervention consists of a series of five practiced tasks that self-adjust but gradually increase in difficulty, are presented in a computerized ‘game-like’ format, and which exercise various aspects of attention/executive function. This research holds benefit for children with ASD and their families, through improvement in attention/executive functioning, and consequently better social, behavioral, and academic function. The school district partner will benefit through potentially improved functioning in children with ASD, reduction of secondary disabilities, and enhancement of other standard academic interventions. Through ongoing interaction and collaboration with the student intern (in addition to formal presentation of the study results), the school district will gain valuable knowledge and practical skills regarding evidence-based interventions for ASD and attention/executive functioning.

Intern: 
Andrew Sung
Faculty Supervisor: 
Drs. Sarah J. Macoun & Kimberly A. Kerns
Province: 
British Columbia
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