Virtual autism

What is virtual autism? 

  • Virtual autism is a phrase formulated in 2018 by Marius Teodor Zamfir, a Romanian psychologist. He found that children, 0-3 years, who stared at screens for over 4 hours a day, had “sensory-motor and socio-affective deprivation”.
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  •  These activated “behaviours and elements are similar to those found in children diagnosed with ASD [autism spectrum disorder]”.
  •  Autism is a pervasive development disorder, meaning it affects all areas of early childhood development, including speech, sociability, play, and skill development.
  • The nervous system is not ready for screens at an early stage of life.
  •  A parent or sibling blowing bubbles and a child reaching out to touch them is not the same as the simulated video game on a tablet.
  •  Children at this age learn a variety of skills as they discover their bodies, simple objects, and the voices of family members.
  • By using screens as a substitute for self-soothing or as a distraction, we are destroying five levels of learning, These include
    • Interoception (awareness of body cues),
    • Sensory learning that is not restricted to the visual,
    • Muscle memory to enables a lower-level skill to progress into a higher-level skill,
    • Emotional learning, and other forms of learning (including school work, regulation, and problem-solving).
  • For a child who has been spending long hours in front of screens and is showing signs of uneven development, there is a combination of ways of reversing the prognosis.

How to treat virtual autism

  • Treatment of virtual autism is to be structured by professionals (child psychologists and occupational therapists),  but not restricted to the therapist’s office.
  • It is about changing the home environment to be more stimulating — letting babies be idle and not having to engage them all the time it can be treated through using various therapies like-
    • Play therapy
    • Psychomotor stimulation therapy to language stimulation
    • Cognitive behaviour therapies.

Practice MCQ

Consider the following statements regarding virtual autism

1.      It is a sensory-motor and socio-affective deprivation among teenagers

2.      It is an untreatable disease

3.      It is caused by  staring at screens for over 4 hours a day

How many of the above statements is/are correct

(a)    Only one

(b)   Only two

(c)    All three

(d)   None

Scroll down for answer










Ans. A

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