The development of a human being, according to Piaget, is divided into concrete stages that trace the evolution of the mind and the body with experience. Piaget’s theory of development is all encompassing in terms of the span it covers with respect to age. It establishes the Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete operational and Formal operational stages as four concrete entities marked by certain developmental cues.

What is Autism?

Piaget's theory of development forms the benchmark to detect Autism. Image: Smore

Piaget’s theory of development forms the benchmark to detect Autism.
Image: Smore

When there is a hitch in the genetic makeup of a newborn, there are chances that these may lead to the development of neurocognitive ailments such as Autism Spectrum. We often tend to typecast Autistic kids as ‘burly and hard to contain’, but there are several ways to alleviate the symptoms to a great degree, to try and ensure development at a decent pace.
Repetitive behavior, hyperactivity, as well as a failure to respond to verbal and social cues are displayed by Autistic children. Developed during 8 to 10 months of age (roughly), the disorder causes infants to disregard their own names, reduce their interest in social interaction, and also display delayed speech. Due to the social barriers that are experienced, playing alone is often an Autistic child’s cup of tea.

The Autism-Media Link

This notion of solitude is what gives rise to the possibility of media usage in Autistic children. Using a media device causes a decreased haptic awareness in these children. Their hands are so occupied with the tablet they’re holding, that their motor faculties are put to rest completely. The stimuli given to the brain cause a hyperactive streak of cognitive development through exposure, but the motor aspects become lacking. Thus, when the device is taken away from the child, the palette that the brain functions on becomes highly disorganized, causing them to become unnecessarily energetic and unruly.
Image: Autism Speaks

Image: Autism Speaks

This chain of operation is often what makes Autistic children, as well as perfectly normal kids who excessively use media devices hard to control. There have been many international studies about the usage of media in children, but the Indian context is yet to see a research effort that focuses on studying this domain.
 We often tend to think child using a media device with ease at a young age is an indication of heightened intelligence. This might be true in terms of the stimulus received, but what it does to the notions of a balance between cognitive and motor faculties pans out to be ‘not-so-favorable’. Thus, curtailing media usage to a reasonable level, or using educational technology that is incremental, and allows children to interact with their environments is probably the answer. The conundrum still remains with parents saying ‘we can’t deprive them of it! They’ll just go to someone else’s to play on a tablet anyway’, but the rational facts lie in the domain of understanding how media use can make the mind complacent, and hesitant to accept change.