Reduce screen time for autistic children: Experts

Lucknow, Apr 2 (IANS): Autistic children should be kept away from TV screens, tablets and mobile phones as far as possible since this exposure is said to aggravate symptoms.

Medical experts says that this flare-up of symptoms due to screen exposure is called 'virtual autism' and cases are on the rise in the post pandemic era, especially in children under the age of five.

Prof Vivek Agrawal, head of psychiatry department in the King George's Medical University (KGMU), said children below the age of five are spending six-ten hour watching screens.

"We are seeing five-six such cases in the OPD which used to be one-two earlier during pre-pandemic era. Luckily, it is reversible if identified in its early stages and corrective measures taken," said Prof Agarwal.

He said traits like social interaction, communication and behavioural challenges among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are getting flared up.

Renowned paediatric neurologist from Lucknow, Dr Rahul Bharat, said, today gadgets are used a lot in homes. Parents give these gadgets to kids during infancy, which is a critical time for brain development when children learn by observing others, exploring their surroundings and learning through free play.

"Since these ASD kids have strong visual memory and have limited interests, letting a child see screens for too long makes the situation worse," he said.

He also said the rise in virtual autism cases is being recorded all over the world in the post Covid phase.

"During the pandemic, parents gave gadgets to children and spending too much time in a virtual world is depriving a young child's growing brain of important stimulation. Hence, speech stuttering and affecting cognitive capacities got impacted," said Dr Rahul Bharat.

He cautioned parents about the dangers of exposing young children to four or more hours of screen use every day.

"Lack of communication among parents leads to issues affecting children. In most cases, aggressive behaviour and tantrums shown by children can be addressed. The first three-six months are very crucial for the child and so parents should be focused on their development," he added.




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