Autism and Electronic Devices
In this day and age, there are so many advancements in electronics, in particular for people with autism. Many of our children know how to navigate iPods, iPads, iPhones better than we do; however, that is not always a good thing, and it’s important that in today’s world there are electronic guidelines put on the usage on all our children, especially for our children with autism.
Screen time is an increasingly popular way for people to stay connected, entertained and informed. With the rise of smartphones, tablets and apps, it has become a mainstay in many homes and can be a great tool to help children with autism learn, connect, and express themselves.
However, too much screen time can have adverse effects on children with autism. Children with autism may play games consistently due to the predictable nature of them and the low social interaction required. Not only can that interfere with social and communication skills, but studies have also found that screen time may lead to sleep problems and anxiety. It is important for parents to understand the potential risks associated with too much screen time while still using technology as a helpful tool in the development of their child.
The main reason you would want to teach electronic guidelines to the child with autism, because if left to their own preferences your child might use the electronics to engage in a self-stimulatory behavior. For instance, they might open and close one application repeatedly, play with an academic learning application but intentionally get an answer wrong because they like to hear the sound it plays if they get it wrong, which means they aren’t learning, but instead developing bad habits.
It is harder to undo bad habits then to instill healthy habits from the beginning.
At Empower Behavioral Health, we use electronics in our teaching. We provide technology intensive programming, but we also make sure that we have serious electronic guidelines in place for our kids.
Some electronic guidelines that we suggest you use:
- Sit with your child playing with the electronic device often to see how they use it.
- Limit the amount of time in one sitting that they use it (i.e. no more than 15 minutes at a time and use a timer so they can see how much time they have left) and maybe even the number of times a day (use a check off chart so they can see how many times they have already used it for the day).
- Make sure they use different applications and not just perseverate on one application.
Technology will be a bridge to communicating with the rest of the world and for promoting independence in the workforce which is why it is so important for children who are autistic to establish healthy habits with it early on. “Easy now, hard later” is not something you want to experience, especially in the world of technology.
With all the advancements in technology, we need to enable our children to use it to create opportunity, not be an excuse not to interact with the complicated world around them. In a future article, we will discuss how you can use technology to access their community.
Technology is an amazing opportunity for our children! Let’s all make sure they use it correctly and follow the appropriate guidelines.
If you or your child struggle with repetitive behaviors, Empower Behavioral Health can help. We offer full-time and part-time applied behavior analysis (ABA) programs across Texas that treat various behaviors associated with autism. Contact us today to learn more and get started.