Kim Toomer MOT OTR/L, occupational therapist at Child and Family Development, reviewed a fascinating and perhaps surprising article about how people with autism learn best. Many experts and providers approach learning by repeating information over and over again, either verbally or physically. According to the author Shilo Rea of Carnegie Mellon University, a new study published in Nature Neuroscience shows that training individuals with ASD to acquire new information by repeating the information actually harms their ability to apply that learned knowledge to other situations. This finding, by an international research team, challenges the popular educational approaches designed for ASD individuals that focus on repetition and drills.
Instead, the study highlights the importance of using a variety of materials, tools, situations, and strategies when working with individuals with autism so that they may learn to generalize what they learn across different tasks.
In occupational therapy sessions, I am always trying to provoke adaptive responses from the sensory system. For example, when we are working on motor planning with a child who may appear clumsy, we may build obstacle courses utilizing different equipment each time over a number of sessions. Each time they complete a different course, the child‚Äôs vestibular, proprioceptive, and vision systems have to work together in a different way to be successful.
This study appears to support this type of varied, adaptive learning strategy for people with autism.
Read full article here.