Differences in cognitive processing skills and preferences are not part of the diagnostic criteria though many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have learning preferences and cognitive processing patterns that differ from their peers.
Differences in how information is received, processed and applied by students with ASD can present as barriers to learning in the following ways:
- difficulties attending to information or sustaining attention due to the extra effort required to attend to, process and apply information
- difficulties with visually 'busy' environments or learning activities
- difficulties determining and attending to the main source of information including shifting attention and maintaining attention
- literal interpretation of language and information
- difficulties making inferences and applying knowledge to new or varied situations
- difficulties with flexibility and with considering that outcomes may be achieved via a variety of ways, methods or sequences
- poor organisation skills
- difficulties initiating activities and engagement (knowing what to start, where to start, how to start)
- differences in the way memories are grouped, stored and recalled including short term memory challenges
- an attention to detail that at times may be insignificant or not the most important detail
- perception difficulties such as finding it difficult to understand the big picture or end product without specific and concrete examples
- executive functioning challenges such as planning, sequencing and prioritising difficulties.