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Autistic kids generally shun e-mail and chat

Most kids in a new autism study spend the majority of their time playing video games and watching TV, but less than half report using e-mail or chat.

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) tend to spend a majority of their free time in front of a screen, but little if any of that time on social activities such as e-mail or chat, according to new research out of Washington University in St. Louis.

New research finds that while kids with autism prefer TV and video games to e-mail and chat. Washington University

Researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, which includes more than 1,000 13- to 16-year-olds in special ed who have ASDs, speech and language impairments, and learning disabilities.

While 28 percent of typically developing kids are reported as heavy TV watchers, this study found that more than twice as many kids with ASDs (60.3 percent) are reported to spend "most of his/her time" watching TV or videos.

By contrast, almost 90 percent of the kids with ASDs spent little time on social media such as e-mail and chat, and 64.4 percent don't use email or chat at all.

"Television viewing is clearly a preferred activity for children with ASDs, regardless of symptoms, functional level, or family status," says assistant professor Paul Shattuck, who led the study, in a school news release. His team's study appears in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Shattuck says that as kids with ASDs age and as their cognitive skills improve, they spend more time using social media, which helps them to further develop social skills.