Categories: ASD and DD, Child-focused
By Bridget Anderson, M.Ed., BCBA
Giving children with autism opportunities to socialize and participate in leisure activities with others can help them learn and practice new skills. However, many children on the autism spectrum struggle with communication and social interactions and prefer solitary activities such as watching videos or playing video games on electronic devices.
Finding leisure activities that a child with autism enjoys is vitally important – especially if that child has very limited preferences, which is often the case. Therefore, parents may be pleased if using electronic devices for entertainment is one of their child’s favorite activities. However, managing the usage of electronic devices is important because too much screen time can interfere with a child’s learning, and opportunities for social interactions and play. It can also contribute to other negative outcomes such as sleep issues and mood changes.
How much time is too much time on screens? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than one hour of non-educational screen time each weekday for children ages 2-5, and no more than three hours on the weekend days. For children 18-24 months, the AAP recommends that screen time be limited to educational programming with the supervision of a caregiver. Prior to 18 months, screen time should be limited to video chatting only.
Here are a few tips to manage screen time for your family and child with autism:
While limiting time on screens is important, spending time with electronic devices can offer many learning and independent leisure opportunities for a child with autism. It can also be a preferred activity that you and your child do together. By familiarizing yourself with programming, creating a schedule, setting boundaries with usage, and learning about and using parental controls, you can make screen use a safe and positive experience for your family.
Bridget Anderson, M.Ed., BCBA, is the Executive Director of the May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in West Springfield, Mass. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis, serving individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded more than 65 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan. May Institute operates five schools for children and adolescents with ASD and other developmental disabilities, including one in West Springfield, Mass. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit www.mayinstitute.org.