Asperger teens and video games

Laura - posted on 02/18/2016 ( 8 moms have responded )

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Our lovable 13 yr. old son was diagnosed to be on the spectrum in 2011. He is high functioning and with help is doing fair in school. However, he will spend long hours on the computer playing games and watching gamers and doing nothing else other that stopping for food and bathroom. Why are so so many Aspies obsessed with video games? How can I get him to do something else, like go ride a bike?

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Raye - posted on 02/19/2016

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Psychiatric symptoms from various disorders can have a lot of overlap, and this is especially true when it comes to children. But not many parents know that video games and other interactive screen-time activities are stressors and can lead to having more trouble with your child. Even children that are not on the spectrum can exhibit those type of behaviors due to unregulated screen time. Many of the effects of too much screen time can be grouped into symptoms related to mood, cognition, and behavior.

Stanford University performed brain scanning on subjects playing a simple video game. They found that video game play activated the pleasure circuit to some degree in all subjects, but more so in men. It's also likely that many video games offer a very highly effective reward schedule: Just like puffing cigarettes, the pleasurable moments they provide are brief, but they have rapid onset and are repeated often. Video games also activate the dopamine pleasure circuit, and that means that one can become addicted to them.

Because electronics are stimulating, video games and other interactive screen media are being marketed as learning tools. But studies show gaming has an adverse effect on attention and impulsivity over time—especially in children who already have attention problems. Children (and adults) engaging in regular, prolonged screen activities exhibit difficulties in sustaining focus and completing goal-oriented activities and have a reduced ability to control impulses and emotions. Soon enough, more and more stimulation is required for focus—identical to drug addiction. They need more immediate gratification or they turn irritable.

Furthermore, as people spend more time playing video games, their risk of performing poorly in work or school, becoming overweight or obese, and developing specific negative physical health outcomes (such as carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries) increase.

So, the parent really needs to step in and control the child's screen time. Don't forbid all game play, but cut it down to less than an hour per day. The kids should get regular exercise and adequate amounts of sleep. And they should be getting proper nutrition from eating balanced meals and healthy snacks. Encourage them to play with their friends, rather than spending hours alone, cut off from the rest of the real world. All these things contribute to keeping young brains active and help kids be sharper, healthier, and happier.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 02/20/2016

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ALL teens (or most, anyway) are in to video games, it doesn't take being on the Spectrum for that.

What is needed, for ALL teens, is for parents to take control of the screen time.

Raye spent the time to give the stats and recommendations (Thanks, Raye! I give you a GOLD STAR for your research!)

As far as HOW to get them to do something else...I'm always fond of the confiscate the cords method. No cord, no power, no argument: GO OUTSIDE!

Sarah - posted on 02/18/2016

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Many teens enjoy video games. I don't think being on the spectrum really makes a difference My son would sit for hours and do nothing but eat and play if permitted. That's the thing, you are permitting him to play endlessly. Take control and set some limits. Discuss that he can have one hour per day, and then make some conditions; homework first, no gaming is missing schoolwork or poor grades, and set a timer. When the timer is goes off the controls get taken away. If he gives you a hard time, he loses the next day's gaming. This worked well with my son. The AAP advises two hours of screen time a day or less. That includes phone texting, gaming and TV.

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Ev - posted on 02/21/2016

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Raye--you hit the nail on the head so to speak. I learned about screen time and its adverse affects on another scale--that of its impact on young minds (infants and toddlers) and the neurons in those minds and how they do not make the connections that are needed to function in this world.

Sarah - posted on 02/19/2016

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Great response Raye, well researched and well articulated! ( Do I sound like I just graded your high school essay?)
but really you hit it right on the head. Limiting screen time is important for all teens. It is so easy to let a child self-entertain with gaming.

Strong - posted on 02/18/2016

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I would like to suggest that you seek professional counsel regarding your son's situation. I’ve heard that Focus on the Family offers free counseling and I think you may find it helpful to speak with one of the counselors about this. Here’s a link (http://bit.ly/1mLezXc) if you think it might be useful. Read through this article, as well. (http://bit.ly/1mLeuTD)
You might also want to check out these two books. They should be available at local bookstores and through most online booksellers.
1. Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns, by Brenda Smith Myles and Jack Southwick.
2. Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, by Tony Attwood.

Ev - posted on 02/18/2016

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My son is also on the spectrum. He did not get his first game console until he was 14 years old. At that point he was with me on weekends and holidays because he had to be at dad's to go to school. So I let him play a lot. As time went on he learned to limit his gaming time and then started to do other things like hang with me at the movies, go for walks and visit relatives to name a few. He would even suggest to me we go do something. For an early graduation present, his dad got him a gaming computer which he loaded a lot of games onto to play as well as his game consoles he collected over the last few years. Once he graduated last May he then got a job and had to learn to limit his time between work and playing games and doing other things.
As the parent you need to set his limits during the school week and weekend. Get him involved in other things like clubs, sports or classes for art or computers not offered in school and are more for fun than education. Get on his level and do things he likes to do besides video games. But you have to make it happen. You need to teach him to value his time and spread out his gaming time over it and other things he could do. Place the console/PC in a public place in the house to monitor his use of the games. Its a life skill he will need to learn: Setting limits on fun things and focus time on work/school things. It will take some time but it can be done.

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