-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- When given the opportunity
to have screen time, children with autism spectrum disorders
typically choose television and video games over social interactive
media, such as email, a new study finds .
The preoccupation with video games could interfere with the
children's socialization and learning, warned the researchers,
whose study appears online in the
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by
problems with social interaction, communication and restricted
interests and behaviors. Autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs,
include Asperger syndrome, which is a milder form of autism.
In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed information on
more than 1,000 teens in special education classes, including those
with autism spectrum disorders, learning and intellectual
disabilities, and speech problems.
About 60 percent of the teens with autism spectrum disorders
spent most of their time watching TV or videos, the investigators
"This rate appears to be high, given that among typically developing adolescents, only 28 percent have been shown to be 'high users' of television," Paul Shattuck, an assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a university news release. "Television viewing is clearly a preferred activity for children with ASDs, regardless of symptoms, functional level or family status."
Moreover, 41 percent of the teens with autism spent most of
their free time playing video games, the study authors found.
"Given that only 18 percent of youths in the general population are considered to be high users of video games, it seems reasonable to infer based on the current results, that kids with ASDs are at significantly greater risk of high use of this media than are youths without ASDs," Shattuck added.
In contrast, the teens with autism spectrum disorders were less
likely to use email or social media.
"We found that 64.4 percent of youth with ASDs did not use email or chat at all," Shattuck said. "Kids with speech and language impairments and learning disabilities were about two times more likely to use email or chat rooms than those with ASDs."
He noted, however, use of social media increased among the teens
with autism spectrum disorders as they got older and their
cognitive skills improved. Cognitive is a word used to describe
brain-based functions such as memory, thinking, learning and
"This proclivity for screen time might be turned into something we can take advantage of to enhance social skills and learning achievement, especially [with] recent innovations in devices like iPads," Shattuck suggested.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
provides more information on
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