Last updated on August 2019

Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism (MITA) - an Early Intervention Computerized Brain Training Program for Children With ASD

Brief description of study

Visual puzzles have been used for centuries to facilitate early development in kids. Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism (MITA) is a unique, early-intervention application for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The app includes bright, interactive puzzles designed to help children learn how to mentally integrate multiple features of an object, an ability that has proven to lead to vast improvements in general learning. Success with MITA puzzles could overtime result in significant improvements in a child's overall development, specifically in the realms of language, attention and visual skills.


MITA is based on Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), one of the best-supported therapies for children diagnosed with ASD. MITA aims to develop one of four pivotal skills targeted by PRT: a child's ability to notice and to respond to multiple visual cues presented simultaneously. This ability is typically impaired in individuals with autism, leading to what is commonly described as stimulus overselectivity, or "tunnel vision." Improving the capacity to discern and respond to multiple cues has been shown to reduce stimulus overselectivity, which in turn leads to vast improvements in general learning.

The visual exercises follow a systematic approach for developing a child's ability to notice multiple characteristics, or features of an object. MITA starts with simple exercises that teach a child to attend to only one feature, such as size (see screenshot 1) or color (screenshot 2). Over time, the exercises get more difficult and require the child to attend to two features simultaneously, such as both color and size (screenshot 3). In order to solve these puzzles, a child must learn how to hold two pieces of information in their mind (both the size and the color of an object) and make a decision based on the combination of these features. Once a child has practiced attending to two features, the program moves on to puzzles that require attending to three features, such as color, size and shape (screenshot 4), and then eventually to puzzles that involve attending to an ever-increasing number of characteristics.

As a child progresses through MITA's systematic exercises, he or she is developing the ability to simultaneously attend to a greater number of features, reducing the propensity towards tunnel vision, and thus developing an essential component of language. The ability to mentally build an image based on a combination of multiple features is absolutely necessary for understanding syntax, spatial prepositions and verb tenses.

MITA is designed for early childhood and intended for long-term, daily use. It is designed to be engaging and educational, as well as adaptive and responsive to the individual abilities of each child.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT02708290

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