Research: Boys with Autism Susceptible to ‘Problem Gaming’

A new research paper published in the Pediatrics 2013 medical journal concludes that young boys with autism spectrum disorder spend much more time playing video games than boys with average development. Researchers also conclude that boys with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD are at greater risk for "problematic video game use."

Boys, ages 8 – 18 with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD spent almost twice as much time playing games daily (2.1 and 1.7 hours daily, respectively) versus 1.2 hours for their counterparts with typical development, according to researchers Micah Mazurek, PhD, of the University of Missouri, and Christopher Engelhardt, PhD, of the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, both in Columbia.

"These results shed light into potential associated features of problematic game use and are consistent with previous studies linking impulsivity and inattention with problematic video game use," the authors stated, adding that impulse control and response inhibition problems are common to those with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.

Researchers compared the daily video gaming habits of boys with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD versus those with typical development and looked at symptoms and game features correlated with problematic game use in a population of 56 boys with autism spectrum disorder, 44 boys with ADHD, and 41 boys with typical development.

Research participants had a mean age of 11.7 and had approximately two siblings on average. Most were white, had parents who were married, and had an annual household income of $41,000 or greater. Boys with autism spectrum disorder included 46.4 percent with autistic disorder, 25 percent with Asperger's disorder, and 28.6 percent with a pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

The data was collected by parents at home using a 19-item, 4-point questionnaire. It cataloged inattention and hyperactivity symptoms using the Vanderbilt Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Parent Rating Scale and autism spectrum disorder symptoms were measured through the Social Communication Questionnaire (Current).

Ultimately researchers concluded from the data collected and cataloged by parents that children with autism spectrum disorder spent significantly more time on average playing video games than did those with typical development. Those with ADHD spent more time playing than the control group, but that time did not reach significance.

Those with either disorder were significantly more likely than children with typical development to have a video game system installed in their room. A separate analysis showed that boys with ADHD and autism who played role-playing games had higher problematic game use scores than those who did not.

Researchers say that "longitudinal studies are needed to extend this research and to examine the long-term effects of screen-based media use in children with [autism spectrum disorder]."

Source: Pediatrics

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  1. 0
    Laughing Hyena says:

    Sorry, there is a difference:–i-2013-04-01-257523.114134-Girls-Have-Autism-Too.html

    "An intriguing finding is that perhaps higher-functioning girls with ASD are missed by clinicians who are not experts in diagnosis. There is some evidence that among this subgroup, girls have better social skills than higher-functioning boys with ASD and so are not diagnosed as readily."

    I was misdiagnosed as a child with childhood Schizophrenia, by the time I hit puberty in junior high school was when they correctly diagnosed me being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Again, girls DO NOT get noticed and properly diagnosed until they are much, much older when those differences are noticeable.

    If they made their test samples older: They wouldn't have run into that sort of problem with finding girls (Or they could be running into the old idea that only boys play video games). Even still, I can't believe they never noticed it in me as a young kid: I had no social skills at that age at all. But because I'm a girl, I guess I get a free pass until it shows by aging in a way that makes them finally sit up and take note.

    I was also born in the early 80's when hardly anyone knew anything (outside of doctors) about the Autism Spectrum at all. Had I been born in the late 90's or early 00's, I might have been noticed having it as a child than as a young teen, as people slowly begin to study girls that are the Spectrum instead of acting like they don't exist.

    As for genetics: We still don't have all the information in yet about all the genes possibly linked to autism. This is why I cry foul when people are making such early calls that "Girls have much more of the Autism genes than boys do, but are protected from it" when we only know about a few of those genes anyways. In other words, this is going to take some time until we know everything exactly.


  2. 0
    Technogeek says:

    That's a fair distinction, although given the known genetic aspects it may be one without a difference. Regardless, the problem of sample size still remains.

  3. 0
    Scott1701c says:

    I will be interested to see where this research leads.


    This study sounds a good deal more scientific then the usual fair for video game research. So far we know the subjects spend more time with the games, now we need to see if that excess time damages the eyes or has other bad side effects or even positive side effects that help to treat their disorder.

  4. 0
    psduckie says:

    I have Asperger's syndrome, and I think that gaming (specifically MMORPGs) can do great things for people like me – thinks like teaching us how to interact with people, and even more importantly, keeping us off drugs.  I have never tried tobacco or any illegal drug and I hardly ever drink alcohol, and I have video games – and the friend that introduced me to them – to thank for that.

    Yes, some of us might become what the article calls "problem gamers."  However, it is much better to be a "problem gamer" than to be a drug addict.

  5. 0
    Technogeek says:

    But then I guess I don't count because I'm female, right? Since no girls with either autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or typical development were tested despite the fact that girls make up half of the video gaming playing hobby.

    Part of the problem with that is that ASD affects far more men than it does women. They may very well have been unable to find enough women or girls with some form of autism to comprise a statisically significant sample.

    That aside, I find it interesting that that roleplaying games tended to attract more time spent playing, although I would like to see how this compares to activities with similar complexity. (I'm not sure complexity is the right word here, but it's the best I can think of.)

  6. 0
    Laughing Hyena says:

    "longitudinal studies are needed to extend this research and to examine the long-term effects of screen-based media use in children with [autism spectrum disorder]."

    *Sigh*… You know Pediatrics, there are people on the autism spectrum disorder that ARE 30 or 40 years old, you know? There are some even way older than that, 50's all the way up to 90's. And a bunch happened to grow up with video games. Instead of waiting for those kids to grow up, you already have groups of people to check out on and test with.

    But then I guess I don't count because I'm female, right? Since no girls with either autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or typical development were tested despite the fact that girls make up half of the video gaming playing hobby.

    Also, the idea that girls don't get or are not on the autism spectrum disorder is a myth pure and simple. Girls display autism traits differently than boys do and it often does not get noticed AT ALL. And so people act like this is something that only affects boys or completely deny that some autism traits can change with age.

    As for the whole topic: Water is Wet and the Sky is Blue!

    Also how hard is it for Pediatrics to come to that conclusion? I had interests I was obsessively into as a kid growing up and I could name all the dinosaurs that were discovered at my age. And could I read tons upon tons of books that I checked out from the library. If someone on the autism spectrum disorder has an interest in video games: Instead of always letting them play with video games, you can use that interest to your advantage. Get them to read books about Video Game History, get them into camps about video game design, mass etc.

    Sometimes you'll find something related to their topic of interest that they will want to know about.

    My mom used to take me to all kinds of trips, like zoos and museums, so it wasn't hard for me to pass classes on Geology and Geography later in life.

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