TV, video games appeal to kids with autism disorders

Janese Silvey

Children with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, tend to be fascinated by screen-based, nonsocial technology such as television and video games, a University of Missouri researcher has found.

It’s the first large-scale study to explore the issue, though parents and clinicians often have observed the trend, said Micah Mazurek, assistant professor in the School of Health Professions and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Mazurek found that 64 percent of teens with ASD spend most of their free time watching TV and playing video or computer games, rates that were much higher than among those with other types of disabilities.

On the flip side, adolescents with ASD were less likely to use email or social media.

Data were compiled from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, a group of more than 1,000 adolescents enrolled in special education. The study includes youths with ASD, learning and intellectual disabilities, and speech and language impairments.

Previous studies have shown that excessively watching television or playing video games in typically developing children is detrimental to schoolwork, social engagement, behavior and health.

The study was co-authored by researchers from Washington University and SRI International.

It is published in the current issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

The research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Organization for Autism Research.

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