What Is Virtual Autism?

Does your child break records of watching TV for lengthy periods of time? Does he love to remain deeply immersed in his virtual world? Lengthy screen times can indeed  pull in some serious concerns to think about! Does your kiddo struggle in choosing words to speak and finds it difficult to concentrate on assigned works?  Then these can be some strong signs of Virtual Autism! 

Are you aware that something like this might exist? Yes, over screen exposure can be the reason behind all this mess! Let’s swim into its depths.

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What exactly is this Virtual Autism?

The disorder known as “virtual autism” is thought to develop in young children (under the age of three) who are exposed to too much screen time. This occurs when excessive screen time results in symptoms similar to autism. Confused right! You may be wondering how that is different from ASD (Autism spectrum disorder)?

Also, check Autism and Sensory Sensitivity

Difference between ASD and Virtual Autism

Classic Autism (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder and it can be present since birth. Though there can be several other causes behind it to aggravate in the long run. But in the case of Virtual Autism, a normal child can also turn out to be Autistic. And this can purely occur due to overexposure of the child to virtual screens. Thus we can call it “Induced autism”. Kids in the  early age of 2-4 years are moreover prone to it.

Most of the time, a child who is exposed to a virtual environment only experiences certain sensations (visual and auditory) is unable to develop normally because they are unable to connect these visual and auditory sensations with other types of sensations, such as vestibular, tactile, smell, and taste.

Also, check Autism and Behaviour issues

What are the causes behind Virtual Autism?

Liberty given to the kids to use the screen for prolonged periods of time, is the biggest cause. Some studies showed that children who spent less than 3 hours a day on the screen had low attention spans and language delays, while those who spent more than 3 hours a day  were hyperactive, had short attention spans and language delays.

So also, increased screen time is associated with melanopsin-expressing neurons and decreasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter, and thus results in aberrant behaviour, decreased cognitive functioning and problems with language development.

Also, check Autism and Eye contact

Symptoms of Virtual Autism

Some major symptoms of it include:

  • Decreased cognitive ability
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Not interested in other activities (apart from virtual world)
  • Speech and language impairment due to lessened social interaction
  • Irritability 
  • Shorter attention span
  • Mood swings

Also, check Speech regression in kids

Can we do something about it?

1. Minimizing the screen time: Decreasing the screen times allows the child to invest his focus into other sorts of creative activities. It helps in sharpening other skills and helps in their application to accomplish specific tasks.  This in turn boosts the child’s confidence to sharpen his senses and further use them to explore the world around!

2. Positive reinforcement: Try to offer small rewards to the kid upon good behaviour. For example: If in a day a child lessens his screen time from 2 hours to 1 hour, offer him a goodie for his disciplined behaviour. This will gradually pour in him, a sense of awareness and responsible attitude towards his daily routine.

3. Engross him in other activities: TV screen indeed makes a child stagnant! It puts boundaries upon a child’s overall development. And thus it’s very important to let the child taste the flavour of developmental activities. For eg: Let the child play the sport which he likes the most.

In the case of any sport, “social interaction” comes into play. A child develops an understanding of team spirit, considerate attitude, compassion about the sport, importance of maintaining good relations, and thinking out of the box for a successful sport win! Thus implementing these ways can help in reversing Virtual Autism!

Also, check Tantrums and ADHD: How to manage?

What type of diet can be beneficial?

Nutrition also plays a crucial part in every individual’s well being. The type of diet that can help in alleviating symptoms of Virtual Autism include: 

1. Nuts: All the nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashew, peanuts and hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E and help in boosting memory. They are also antioxidants which protect against cell damage. Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and are a valuable substance for brain function, memory and thinking abilities. This fatty acid also encourages cognitive functions and helps out with speech that fosters overall development. (best nuts for protein)

2. Seeds: Apart from nuts, seeds like flax, chia, melon, sesame and pumpkins also contain powerful antioxidants like vitamin E that protect the brain from free radical damage. Sunflower seeds impact overall mood and mental processing powers and therefore it is considered a brain boosting snack. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, copper, and much higher in zinc than other seeds, which help in increasing concentration, memory and attention span. One of the easiest to feed brain boosting foods for kids!

3. Cocoa Powder: Pure cocoa powder (unsweetened) contains brain boosting components as it is packed with a large number of antioxidants molecules, the main is epicatechin helpful to improve cognition and speech impairment in studies. Hence cocoa powder is also an important brain development food for children. (More benefits of cocoa powder)

4. Brahmi: Brahmi is a superfood for the brain and is believed to sharpen the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals associated with learning and memory. It has shown to improve spatial learning and retaining power in kids. That is why in older times, kids were often given Brahmi powder with ghee/honey. This would increase their focus and attention while keeping them calm and distressed.

5. Shankhapushpi: Shankhapushpi is a traditional remedy for increasing the functioning of the brain. The powerful antioxidants and flavonoids present in it improve the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness, alertness of an individual. Since it is a brain tonic and stimulator, people taking Shankhapushpi have improved memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities.

6. Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. It is known to reduce anxiety and stress. Moreover, it increases acetylcholine levels which support better memory, mental focus and intelligence. Ashwagandha also improves communication between nerve cells and stimulates the body’s capacity to heal any nervous system damage. It also helps in speech improvement.

Thus a good balanced diet and effective measures, can indeed help to reverse Virtual Autism!

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