Study proposes new learning method to improve visual perception capabilities of autistic people

A study undertaken at Tel Aviv University suggests a new learning method for people with autism that may speed up the learning process, and even improve visual perception capabilities.

According to the research, improving the perceptual capacity of people with autism is often challenging. This requires long and strenuous training besides additional learning challenges with autism, such as the ability to generalize learning in new situations.

Importantly, the new method is based on using ‘memory flashes’, wherein a person is exposed to a task that has already been learned for only a few seconds. The comparison of new method with existing standard teaching practice demonstrated success of the former in improving visual perception capabilities and generalization of learning for people with autism.

Meanwhile, the laboratory of the lead researcher focuses on the study of learning in humans. Today, it is known that a large part of the learning does not happen in formal training environments but afterwards. This includes processes of compounding and reinforcement of memory that happens offline.

However, standard teaching methods for people with autism still favor an approach wherein longer practice is related with better learning; for example, it requires to play the piano for many hours each day to learn it until playing becomes the second nature.

The study identifies an alternate learning mechanism of using memory flashes, which involves a brief exposure to a piece of work that has already been learned to integrate and generalize skill developed. For the study, the researchers examined nearly 30 high-functioning adults with autism who were given a visual learning task (for example, to identify he direct lines that appear for a few milliseconds on the screen).