Tutorial  |   February 2011
Interventions Targeting Attention in Young Children With Autism
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Linda R. Watson
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Contact author: Elena Patten, who is now at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 313 Ferguson Building, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170. E-mail: e_patten@uncg.edu.
Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Tutorial
Tutorial   |   February 2011
Interventions Targeting Attention in Young Children With Autism
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology February 2011, Vol.20, 60-69. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2010/09-0081)
History: Accepted 10 Aug 2010 , Received 31 Aug 2009 , Revised 01 Feb 2010
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology February 2011, Vol.20, 60-69. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2010/09-0081)
History: Accepted 10 Aug 2010 , Received 31 Aug 2009 , Revised 01 Feb 2010

Purpose: The ability to focus and sustain one’s attention is critical for learning. Children with autism demonstrate unusual characteristics of attention from infancy. It is reasonable to assume that early anomalies in attention influence a child’s developmental trajectories. Therapeutic interventions for autism often focus on core features of autism such as communication and socialization, while very few interventions specifically address attention. The purpose of this article is to provide clinicians a description of attention characteristics in children with autism and discuss interventions thought to improve attention.

Method: Characteristics of attention in children with autism are presented. Intervention studies featuring measures of attention as an outcome variable for young children with autism are reviewed to present interventions that have empirical evidence for improvements in attention. Results are synthesized by strategy, specific feature of attention targeted, and results for both habilitative goals and accommodations for attention.

Conclusion: Although research is not extensive, several strategies to support attention in young children with autism have been investigated. The empirical findings regarding these strategies can inform evidence-based practice.

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