Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why is technology toxic to the mind of the autistic child?

Why Technology is Toxic for the ASD Brain
If we consider the relationship between technology and the autistic mind, we can see how the attention that is consumed through engagement with technology --  whether it be computer database searches (“research” on areas of special interest), repetitively watching YouTube videos, eBay shopping, video gaming, or searching for pornography – blocks the brain’s capacity to develop new mental processes which, in turn, undermines the possibility of remediating deficits in dynamic thinking and mindsight (insight + empathy).

Dr. Jane Healy, in her book The Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds -- and What We Can Do About It, addresses the issue of neuroplasticity, attention and technology:

“Human brains arrive in the world with excess potential to make connections (synapses) between different types of neurons. As a youngster carries out certain types of activities, those connections are strengthened, whereas habits that don't get much stimulation or practice may lack a strong neural base. Repetition of an experience tends to "set" connections to make that particular form of learning more automatic …”

“Age-appropriate computer use may help establish some forms of connections, but inappropriate use may also build resistant habits that interfere with learning. Once set into the brains connectivity, such patterns are hard to break … Brains tend to become custom-tailored for skills that the environment promotes …”

“What kinds of connections will our children need most? I advocate giving them the widest repertoire possible so that they will be equipped to deal with multiple eventualities. A child with lopsided experiences is likely to end up with a lopsided brain.”

For those professionals who devote time to evaluating and treating children, teens, and young adults with ASD, the development of a lopsided brain is a reality and accounts for the failure to develop a wide variety of social, emotional, and cognitive competencies.

Ongoing use of computers, particularly Internet database searches and online gaming, produces intense and sustained states of pleasure, including euphoric experiences similar to the “high” associated with the use drugs.

The autistic child/teen -- who often feels overwhelmed by the complexity of social interaction and experiences pervasive alienation from typical peers -- can use the computer to escape into an endless variety of cyber fantasy worlds.

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