Abstract: Learning in Autism

DAWSON, M., MOTTRON, L., & GERNSBACHER, M. A. (2008). Learning in autism. In H. L. Roediger, III (Ed.), Cognitive Psychology of Memory. Vol. [2] of Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference, 4 vols. (J. Byrne Editor), pp. [759-772] Oxford: Elsevier.
[view PDF]

This review summarizes a range of historical, current, and emerging proposals about autistic learning, covering accounts of learning in the autism intervention research, including the applied behavior analysis framework, and accounts of autistic learning in the cognitive and savant literatures. We conclude that learning in autism is characterized both by spontaneous—sometimes exceptional—mastering of complex material and an apparent resistance to learning in conventional ways. Learning that appears to be implicit seems to be important in autism, but autistics’ implicit learning may not map directly onto non-autistics’ implicit learning or be governed by the same constraints.