Autism Acceptance Month - Training Weak Cognitive Skills in Those With Autism Spectrum Disorder

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In 2013, the medical community broadened its reference of four distinct autism diagnoses into the umbrella diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The more general term includes Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), childhood disintegrative disorder, and autistic disorder.

In the past, April had been designated as National Autism Awareness Month, although many groups have been using “acceptance” throughout the month of April. Now, the nation’s oldest leading grassroots autism organization, the Autism Society of America (, is officially calling for a shift in language, starting with the April designation to instead be referred to as Autism Acceptance Month.

“While we will always work to spread awareness, words matter as we strive for autistic individuals to live fully in all areas of life,” says Christopher Banks, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America. “As many individuals and families affected by autism know, acceptance is often one of the biggest barriers to finding and developing a strong support system."

As families strive for inclusion and acceptance for their loved ones with ASD, it can be difficult to know where to turn. Although the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” 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, targeting and training 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 in 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, personal brain training uses customized exercises and incorporates immediate feedback, intensity, and loading, among other features, to target and strengthen brain skills.

So, what’s the difference between tutoring and one-on-one brain training? 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 brain skills needed to perform tasks (like reading) and make learning easier in any subject.

From kindergarten through grad school, students typically struggle because of one of two problems,” explains LearningRx CEO Kim Hanson. “Either new information wasn’t grasped because it was presented poorly or missed entirely, or weak cognitive skills are making it hard to grasp new information—even if it’s presented well. Tutoring works on the first problem. LearningRx 1-on-1 Brain Training works on the second.

Results of personal brain training for students with ASD

Among 1,049 clients who came to LearningRx with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, the average gain in cognitive skills was 3.2 years. The largest gain was 4.5 years in auditory processing. The mean age of the children, who were between 4 and 17, was 10.7. The mean age of the adults, who were between 18 and 63, was 22.6.

In 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: 

For Jayden Fryer of Woodbury, Minnesota, who was diagnosed with autism, there were concerns that he wasn’t being challenged enough in school. He had issues with confidence and his frustrations began manifesting as behavioral issues.

After his grandmother enrolled him in LearningRx 1-on-1 brain training, Jayden blossomed. “He has more confidence, is willing to try new things and is following directions better,” says his grandmother, adding, “In school, he’s finally experiencing the challenges he needed to succeed.”

Watch Jayden’ video here:

If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, call your local LearningRx personal 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.   

About LearningRx®

LearningRx, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the largest one-on-one brain training company in the world. Their training programs are delivered through more than 200 locations in North America and in 48 countries around the globe (as BrainRx®). LearningRx has helped more than 100,000 individuals and families sharpen their cognitive skills to help them think faster, learn easier, and perform better. In addition to their in-Center training programs that partner every client with a personal brain trainer to keep clients engaged, accountable, and on-task—a key advantage over digital brain games—the company also offers online training through real-time videoconferencing. This virtual delivery method allows clients to train from the comfort of their own home while still receiving the benefits of one-on-one brain training with a personal brain trainer. LearningRx's pioneering methods have been used in clinical settings for over 35 years and have been subjected to peer-review in more than a dozen scientific journals.

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