Values and Guidelines of Using Electronic Devices on Children with ASD
The latest guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested:
Screen time is not recommended to infants who are below 1 year of age
- For those who are 2 to 4 years old, sedentary screen time should not be over 1 hour each day
According to the DMS 5, ASD is manifested by persistent impairments in social communication and social interaction across contexts, limited and repetitive interests and activities. Given their lower interests and skills in social and play, it is possible that some children with ASD spent too much time on electronic devices.
The situation could be complicated by behavioral issues such as poor compliance and inflexibilities which leads to disruptive behaviors when devices are withheld, terminated, or not being used in a certain way. Furthermore, self-stimulatory behaviors, for instance fixation on calculator on smartphones, or jumping in and out of apps without actually playing them could be seen in children with ASD as well.
Nevertheless, the values of electronic devices in the treatment for children with ASD are undeniable. For example:
- They could serve as effective reinforcers to increase learning motivation
- Digital presentations allow children to learn and apply acquired skills in electronic formats which is beneficial for generalization
- New language, cognitive, and play skills can also be learnt through educational and non-educational apps
- They are helpful in closing the gap between ASD and typical children
Guidelines of Using Electronic Devices
- Develop Compliance
To avoid disruptive behaviors induced by termination or denial of electronic devices, we must first increase our children’s compliance so that we have full control of how and when to use them. If a child displays high-level of disruptive behaviors when devices are terminated or denied, it is best to strength his/her general compliance in other contexts before including electronic devices in the training.
- Terminate at the ‘Right’ Time
How would you feel if someone interrupts you or tries to take away your device when you are about to break record while playing your favorite game? This is not to suggest to let your child plays until record has been broken. Yet, it is useful to terminate devices in the most optimal time, for example right after finishing one level but before starting the next or immediately after the game is over.
- Do Not Overly Rely on Electronic Devices
It is natural for us to go back to the same thing if it works. Nonetheless, relying heavily on electronic devices as reinforcer can lead to satiation and does not favor expanding our children’s play skills and scoops of interest. Moreover, the majority of games/apps is solitary which might hinder social development and interaction opportunity.
Information provided by Autism Partnership
Autism Partnership (AP) is one of the most established Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) service providers for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the world. Formed in 1994 in the United States, AP is run by professional clinicians and specializes in providing one-on-one therapy, group interventions and overseas consultation for children with ASD and their families.