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TV, VIDEO GAMES: Dominate free time of autistic teens, first time Mizzou study finds

COLUMBIA, 1/29/12  (Beat Byte) --  A University of Missouri researcher has confirmed an observation featured on 60 Minutes last year.   Autistic teens spend most of their free time using television, video-games, and other screen-based technology like the Apple iPad. 
 
"Even though parents and clinicians have often observed that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) tend to be preoccupied with screen-based media, ours is the first large-scale study to explore this issue," said Micah Mazurek, assistant professor in the School of Health Professions and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. 
 
The majority of youths with ASD (64.2 percent) spend most of their free time using solitary, or non-social, screen-based media (television and video games) while only 13.2 percent spend time on socially interactive media (email, internet chatting), Mazurek's study found. 
 
With data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 of more than 1,000 adolescents enrolled in special education, Mazurek looked at youths with ASD, learning and intellectual disabilities, and speech and language impairments. 
 
Her findings are important because "studies have shown excessive use of TV and video games can have negative long-term effects for typically developing children," Mazurek said. "In future studies, we need to learn more about both positive and negative aspects of media use in children with ASD." 
 
Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the study was co-authored by Paul Shattuck, assistant professor at Washington University;  Mary Wagner, principal scientist at SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute; and Benjamin Cooper, a graduate student at Washington University.   The National Institute of Mental Health and the Organization for Autism Research funded the research. 
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