Feeding Autism? ADD? Violence in Children?

I believe it isn’t unreasonable to assume that our modern lifestyle has led to an increase in autism.  According to the Autism Society of America (ASA), autism is the “fastest-growing developmental disability”.  Some have blamed pollutants and even fluoride in our drinking water.  Some have blamed vaccinations that contain traces of mercury, which is dangerous in any amount.  Some have stated it is because detection and diagnosis is better, as many who would have been misdiagnosed in the past are now correctly identified as autistic.  All of them have some valid arguments, IMO.  Any or all of them may be correct to one degree or another.

However, there are many types and levels of autism.  I don’t think that we can dismiss psychological factors.  I would even argue that a lot of our electronic gadgetry may be aggravating the situation, although I might stop short of calling it a cause.  We have become much more visually oriented, whereas in times past we had to either listen or read to obtain the same information.

I am concerned because children spend so much more time in front of a television or playing video games rather than reading or playing outside.  I remember a sermon given once where it was pointed out that reading stimulates a different part of the brain than viewing images does.  In addition, even when children do read, schools are not teaching them phonics, but rather how to visually identify a word (and we wonder why Johnny or Jenny can’t read or write).  I believe we could be actually teaching our children to be autistic!

Notice what SearchWarp.com has to say about “Learn Why Autistic Children Think in Pictures Instead of Words”:

Communication skills for autistic children differ from the norm, including their thinking process. Children with autism find words too busy, so it’s easier to retain information through pictures. Through remembrance of pictures, autistic children are able to understand others and express themselves.

Autistic children learn verbal language by converting text to pictures. While typical thinkers do tasks sequentially, those with autism have a visual style of thinking. Therefore, shapes of pictures and color of pictures play an important role in the way they think. They help autistic children learn a vocabulary that is easier to express.

For autistic children, it is useful to to verbalize words while showing pictures that demonstrate the definition.  Autistic children also do well with a color-coded system.

Yet, when I think about why they might be that way and how many babies are put in front of the electronic babysitter, I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t a connection.  There may also be a connection to ADD, if “Quality vs. Quantity: TV Guidelines for Kids” on MedicineNet.com is any indication:

A study by researchers at the University of Washington Child Health Institute supports the idea of a connection between TV viewing and attention problems. According to the researchers, a 3-year-old who watches two hours of TV per day is 20% more likely to have attention problems at age 7 than a child who watches no television. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

"Most TV programs now require very short attention spans," says American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman Susan Buttross, MD. "In a classroom setting, you need to have sustained attention for a prolonged period of time. The more you’re used to having something fast and furious going by you, the harder the classroom setting gets."

One caveat that MedicineNet.com points out is that it matters a lot the type of programming children watch.  High-quality educational programs can increase reading and math skills.  Violent shows and video games seem to have a connection to aggressive behavior in children.  It is when the children have too much control that negative consequences seem to come into play.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all under the age of 2.

Children grow very rapidly in the first few years of life.  As parents, we must guide what they take into their young minds.  If you feed them poison, they will become sick.  What goes into the mind is no different.  As we say in the computer field, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

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  1. Thank you John for this excellent information. Unfortunately my grandchildren, children and myself occupy a chair in front of a puter for way toooo many hours….think I'll go read an actual book. lol