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Virtual Autism: A New Threat to Toddlers

Dr. Anne-Lise Ducanda manipulates toy ball

Register now for Virtual Autism Webinar 2 with specialist Lori Frome M.Ed.: “What to look for. What to do”: New Virtual Autism webinar airing live February 9 2022 at 8pm ET – YouTube.

REGISTER HERE FOR FREE VIRTUAL AUTISM WEBINAR 2 ON FEBRUARY 9, 2022 AT 8PM ET

Pediatricians are alarmed that babies and toddlers who spend hours a day on phones, tablets, and around TVs can develop autistic-like symptoms, in a newly-identified condition termed Virtual Autism. The good news: the symptoms of Virtual Autism often disappear when the children stop all screen exposure and switch to face-to-face contact, reading, and playing with care-givers, other children, and non-electronic toys.

Two doctors in France are leading an awareness campaign about Virtual Autism, which they explain in this video.

“Screen viewing several hours a day prevents the brain from developing and generates behavior problems and relationship problems,” reports Dr. Anne-Lise Ducanda, speaking also for colleague Dr. Isabelle Terrasse. “We decided to make this video to warn parents, professionals, and public bodies of the grave dangers of all screens for children between the ages of zero to four.”

Over the preceding five years, the doctors had noticed more and more toddlers with unusual changes in behavior. Some had stopped responding to their names, they would avoid eye contact, and had become indifferent to the world around themcharacteristics of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Others were developmentally behind for their age.

Pediatrician holds up drawings by two 4-year-olds. The drawing by the child who is on screens a lot is much less detailed than the one drawn by a child who doesn't spend much time on screens.

Drawing on left by a 4-year-old who spends little time on screen media. Drawing on right by a slightly older 4-year-old who was highly screen-exposed..

After asking parents in detail about the kids’ media use and household exposure, the doctors discovered almost all the children had spent large amounts of time on and around screens—in some cases, ten hours a day. But when the doctors had families eliminate or greatly reduce the children’s screen exposure, the ASD symptoms would almost always disappear.

Various studies in Romania have come to similar conclusions, one stating “sensory-motor and socio-affective deprivation caused by the consumption of more than 4 hours/day of virtual environment can activate behaviours and elements similar to those found in children diagnosed with ASD.”

Because this phenomenon has been so often observed in Romania, screen withdrawal there is now a therapeutic protocol for early ASD and a campaign is also underway there to inform parents about the problem.

Romanian psychologist Marius Zamfir was among the first to identify Virtual Autism. He worries about lack of motivation among children exposed to excessive screen content. “Children’s brains are used to getting pleasure without making any effort at all,” he says in this video made for the Romanian public information campaign.  

Study Proves Observable Brain Changes

A study of toddlers’ brains bears out these behavioral indicators.

Publishing their work in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have shown that the amount of white matter appears to be reduced in the brains of young children who spend more than two hours a day on screens. The brain’s white matter aids in thought processing and organization, as well as performing other vital functions.

“Think of white matter as cables, sort of like telephone lines that are connecting the various parts of the brain so they can talk to each other,” Dr. John Hutton told CNN.

“These are tracks that we know are involved with language and literacy,” he continued. “And these were the ones relatively underdeveloped in these kids with more screen time.”

47 healthy toddlers were studied. Screen exposure among them ranged from zero to about five hours a day.

In their report, the study authors did not make a connection to virtual autism nor did they specifically mention autistic-like symptoms.

Astronomical Rise in Autism Incidence

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in 1975—when VCRs first came on scene—only one in 5,000 children in the U.S. was reported to have ASD. But by 2016, video on demand had become ubiquitous and the incidence of ASD had risen to one child in 68. In late 2018, a new report based on US government health statistics showed the number may be closer to one child in every 40.

Until very recently, “AV (audio-visual) exposure in infancy has been overlooked” as a risk factor for autism, according to research ophthalmologist Karen Frankel Heffler of Drexel University College of Medicine. As she writes in the journal Medical Hypotheses, “There has been an explosion in viewing opportunities for infants over the past 25 years, which parallels the rise in autism.”

“Attention in the vulnerable infant is drawn away from healthy social interactions toward TV, computer screens, and electronic toys,” according to Heffler.

In early 2020, JAMA Pediatrics published a Drexel analysis co-authored by Heffler which found that babies who viewed TV and videos at age one had a slightly greater chance of displaying autistic-like symptoms than non-TV watching babies by the age of two. Conversely, the study found, “Less screen exposure and more parent-child play as 12 months of age were associated with fewer ASD-like symptoms at 2 years of age.”

At the first ever Children’s Screen Time Action Network conference, I happened to meet Dr. Heffler’s research associate, Lori Frome, M.Ed. Frome is an Early Interventionist who discovered, also by chance, that the symptoms in one of her ASD patients disappeared after her screen exposure was curtailed.

Frome then tried the same treatment on her own son, who also had an ASD diagnosis. In only a few screen-free months, as Frome describes in this video, her son had “a complete developmental trajectory change in the core deficits of ASD.” In other words, her son became developmentally normal for his age.

Screen media has a “very addictive power,” says Dr. Ducanda. “Little by little the child can no longer do without and demands it more and more. If the parents try and withdraw him, he can go into a real meltdown.”

Doctors Ducanda and Terrasse contend that heavy doses of screen time affect what would be, in pre-digital times, the natural wiring of a child’s brain. Watching a ball move on a screen, for instance, does not register in a child’s mind the same way it does to manipulate and throw a ball. Says Dr. Ducanda: “The small child’s brain cannot develop without this sense of touch.”

Dr. Andrew Doan, an ophthalmologist and neuroscientist, produced this animated video to show how watching screen media can rewire a child’s brain.  In this TEDx talk, I discuss the importance of parent-child Attachment and how digital devices can interfere. 

Avoiding Virtual Autism

So, what’s a parent to do? For one thing, to respect a child’s basic developmental needs. For kids to learn to speak, reason, and develop crucial social skills, they need face-to-face interaction with loving people and to use all their senses as often as they can.

A new study from Iran proves the power of parent interaction and play. Investigators selected 12 toddlers with autistic-like symptoms who had spent half their waking hours on screen devices. Their parents were then given 8 weeks of lessons in how to play with their children, with an emphasis on eye-to-eye contact, loving touch, and continuous communication. While the parents applied these lessons at home, objects that had absorbed the children’s attention were taken away, including digital devices.

At the end of the two-month period, the children’s screen time had shrunk to a bare minimum, their ASD-like repetitive behaviors were greatly reduced, and brain studies showed ASD-like readings had returned to nearly normal.

Screen time duration drops in Journal of Asian Psychiatry Study from Iran

One of the study’s chief investigators told me consistency is the key. For the intervention to work, the parents had to stick with high-touch, high-talk interaction all day every day during the children’s waking hours. He says researchers can now confidently recommend that children under age three should spend their time playing and interacting face-to-face with caring adults and not using digital devices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that babies and toddlers need to spend full time exploring their world without interruption by screens, except for the occasional Facetime with Grandma. Preschoolers shouldn’t have more than one hour of screen time a day “to allow children ample time to engage in other activities important to their health and development,” says the AAP.

The World Health Organization says, for the sake of their health and proper brain formation, children under age one should have no exposure to screens.

Life Balance Guidelines for Infants from the World Health Organization

World Health Organization Infant Guidelines (Under Age One)

Early Childhood is a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

When you look through Today’s lens, early childhood has become a rarified, once-in-a-lifetime pre-digital opportunity. As I write in The Durable Human Manifesto: Practical Wisdom for Living and Parenting in the Digital Age, each child begins life as a “wild human”—as free and unplugged as any other animal.

“When toddlers range around, freely using all of their senses to examine, taste and play with whatever they choose, they are making rich and lifelong neural connections.”

Boy playing outside with toy trucks

So kids can stay on a healthy developmental track, experts including Dr. Ducanda and Lori Frome recommend that you:

  • Talk and read with your child every day as much as possible
  • Provide materials, toys, and games that require manipulation, such as a play dough, finger paints, and a play kitchen
  • Go outside at least once a day and make sure the child has time to play alone and with other children
  • Not use screens when you are with children
  • Not hand a phone to your baby or young child (and keep the screen locked, just in case)
  • Keep the TV off around kids under age four, even if the child doesn’t seem to be paying attention to what’s on the screen
  • Explain to family members and caregivers why these measures are essential to a child’s healthy development, durability, and well-being

Great grandfather plays on floor with great grandson

As Dr. Heffler points out in her research, autism-like characteristics that develop in very young children can have a variety of causes. Still, if symptoms do arise, Dr. Ducanda and her colleagues recommend keeping the child away from all screens for at least a month, which will require the cooperation of every household member. If that can be accomplished, she claims, the child’s ASD-like problems will likely “miraculously disappear or diminish considerably.”

Conversely, if a child has a full, well-balanced life with minimal time on screens, the symptoms may never emerge.

Virtual Autism Resources

This site has links to Virtual Autism research and researchers.  

Watch the webinar with Lori Frome M. Ed. who explains how to detect, treat, and avoid Virtual Autism: 

REGISTER HERE FOR FREE VIRTUAL AUTISM WEBINAR 2 ON FEBRUARY 9, 2022 AT 8PM ET

Download Lori Frome’s specially-curated Parent Resource List from the box on this page.

Finally, in this simple on-line course, I teach parents why and how to create loving bonds with their babies and toddlers as well as to maximize their brain development and language learning.

About the author:

Besides being the mom of three practicing durable humans, DurableHuman.com founder Jenifer Joy Madden is a certified digital wellness instructor, health journalist, digital media adjunct professor, and author of How To Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design and The Durable Human Manifesto.

Her work has informed millions on ABC News and Discovery Health Channel, in The Washington Post, Readers Digest and other news outlets.

183 thoughts on “Virtual Autism: A New Threat to Toddlers

  1. one girl child now she aged 25 month. she start to see mobile screen at age 9 month upto 2 hour per day and increase every day now at age of 24 month it become to see on tv and mobile is near 7-10 hour per day, now at age of 25 month come to know autism , so question is
    (1) is it due to constant seeing of tv screen like rhyme etc
    (2) is it curable ? or how recovery we get?

    1. Thank you very much for sharing this about your daughter. Though this is a brand new field of study, it is true that some doctors in the U.S. and other countries see that little children who watch hours per day of TV, YouTube, and other screen media can start having autistic-like symptoms. These doctors also see that when a child with these symptoms STOPS using or being around ANY screens and STARTS playing with toys and other children and reading books and talking to and playing a lot with parents, siblings and other caregivers, the autistic-like behaviors get much less or even go away. It only seems to take a few weeks after they stop being on or around screens that they return to being normal curious, lively little kids. A great book you can read about this is Reset Your Child’s Brain by Victoria Dunckley. M.D.. You can also visit this website: https://esmautism.wixsite.com/website. Doctors studying this problem advise that if your child does stop being around any screens for a month and there is very little or no reduction in autistic-like symptoms, it is probably time to see a specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you’d like to talk directly with an expert knowledgeable about “Virtual Autism”, please let me know and I will put you in touch.

        1. Please be sure to see the comment made July 3, 2020, by Virtual Autism treatment expert, Lori Frome. I’m sure she will answer an email from you. She very much wants to help.

      1. Definitely, it is by screen as we have experienced in our own child who looked u tube since 6 month and have repetitive behaviour, hpyeractivity and speach delay but after 2 years we stop screen because he has developed ASD like symtoms but we was guided by a Therapist from Pakistan channel named “step to learn’ who guid us properly through whtasapp and our son has improved so much now so its defiantly curable

        1. Hiii…hope ur child is doing well…can I have ur contact (email) please….looking help for my child…thank you

          1. Please download the Virtual Autism resource page to get Lori Frome’s contact info. Also, please read through the post and read the comments. Lots of good info there!

    1. Thank you for reaching out. I talked to a Virtual Autism expert about your questions. She replied that how quickly a 21-month-old responds depends on several factors such as first screen exposure, amount of screen exposure, whether content has been viewed repetitively, and how much social interaction the child is getting on a daily basis. She adds that a child generally starts showing signs of social development such as improved eye contact and desire to be closer to care givers within the first month of complete screen removal and high social interaction in the second month. If you would like to contact the expert directly, please send your request along with a contact email address to info@durablehuman.com.

      1. Hi can u please tell me after how much time I can hope to see improvement in 30months old with 7hours screen exposure in this lock down era with no contact to peers or even outsiders at all.

        1. Hi, Richa. Glad to hear from you. Do you plan to stop your little one from looking at screens (large and small), whether in lockdown or not? If not, her behavior is unlikely to change. If so, screen time should be substituted with lots of face-to-face time and talking, reading, and playing with you and other loving people like older siblings/relatives, playing with 3-D open-ended toys like blocks, and going outside for more play and fresh air. You can also check out my course on managing toddler parenthood without resorting to digital devices at https://durablehuman.com/babybrain. Next course starts on October 29, 2020.

          1. Hey thanx for ur support..we stopped her screen time completely for a month..n definitely improvements are there..she is having better eye contact and wants to go out of home..we took her for 3days outing to kids of her age and guess what some of her words she spoke earlier came back..though we are waiting for more improvement in her speech coz she used to speak sentences prior to lock down..also I would like to know that she responds to her name when she isn’t busy with something or she repeats her name when we call her

            How can I correct this??

          1. Hello, Mohit. I see you are looking for help for your 3-year-old son. I recommend a webinar with Lori Frome, M.Ed. She has lots of great information and good examples of children whose autistic-like symptoms improved when they stopped using screens and started 6-8 hours of daily eye-to-eye interaction, play and reading with parents and other caregivers. See the webinar: Virtual Autism Webinar

  2. Hallo
    My 9 year old son was diagnosed first with ADHD at 6, then ADD with autistic tendencies st age 7. He has watched tv from a young age. I used it to help him learn English which is my native language but we live in Germany. That was successful he is bilingual but I wonder a lot of I made a big mistake with the screen time. He started playing video games a few months ago and he developed big problems in school and became aggressive at home. He has hit me and his dad and thrown things. On one occasion he ran away. This is sudden and new behaviour and we were shocked. We stopped the video games completely and have now stopped tv too. His rages haven’t changed and he is so
    angry at us. He tells me everyday he hates me and I am ruining his life. It’s a very hard time. Are extreme reactions to screen time bans normal?

    1. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch about your son’s behavior. In short, the answer is Yes—it can be very difficult for a child to cope with new limits on screen media use, but research shows most children will adjust within a few weeks.
      To help you with this challenging quest, several experts I consulted suggest you read an outstanding book by psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley, M.D.: Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time. Dr. Dunckley has tips to help you prepare all members of the household for a 4-week break from screen use.: https://amzn.to/2TkU614
      To help you understand the effects of media viewing in early childhood, watch this TEDx talk by pediatric researcher Dimitri Christakis, M.D.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoT7qH_uVNo&feature=youtu.be

      You might also want to take the Durable U online course for new (and renewing) parents which explains how and why to help your son have a more 3-D, 360-degree full-sensory childhood. The course also suggests easy ways parents can contain their own screen media use so they spend more time talking to, listening to, and playing with their children, who are in such need of their eye contact and attention. See: https://durablehuman.com/DurableU.
      Finally, if you would like to be referred to a counselor specializing in this area, please email your request to info@durablehuman.com. Wishing you the best of luck as you educate yourself in this area. Please write back if you have more questions.

  3. Hi,

    My only daughter who is now 30 months , shows most of the autistic symptoms. She watched TV and other screens while she was only 6 months of age. After the negative feedback from her Preschool about her attention , concentration and social skill, we consulted doctor and diagnosed her with ASD features. She watched on average of 6 hours of screen till date. One of the doctor even said it is induced from screen exposure and will be completely curable.

    How much time will take for her to recover and the symptoms to be disappeared ?

    1. It sounds like your daughter is on the road to recovery! Since The Durable Human cannot give specific medical advice, we suggest asking your doctor how long he or she expects it will take for the autistic-like symptoms to subside. You could also consult “Reset Your Child’s Brain” , a book on the subject by Victoria Dunckley, M.D.

  4. Hi. My son who is 35 months old showing many autistic symptoms . He used to watch cartoons and videos in TV from the age of 1 year( more than 5 hour). Now after stopping all screen time before 1 month and sending him a preschool brought change in eye contact and response when calling his name etc . He spoke a 2 word sentence in last day. Apart from that he didn’t speak anything like that before. Only words he learnt from videos he used to tell us and meaningless language. What can I expect in future? He has got a speech therapist at his preschool aswell

    1. Thank you for sharing the information about your son. It appears he is improving now that you have stopped screen exposure and started speech therapy. Language delay is a typical symptom of early screen overuse. With continued speech help and your resolve to have him keep playing, talking, and reading with you and others should keep him on a healthy trajectory!

    2. Hello.My daughter is also suffering from the same problems. She is 27 months old and have watched rhymes since she was 9 months old. She speaks meaningless language doesn’t responds to her name and says only those words which she has grasped from rhymes. 2 weeks before we have stopped her screen fully. I would like to seek advice from you to improve her communication skills. Could you please share the changes you are watching and seeing in your child.

  5. My daughter is diagnosed with mild autism at 30 months. She used to watch her rhymes on laptop and also get less maternal attention due to research work, so we started speech therapy, now she is 34 months, there is no screen time from two months, her eye contact has improved but speech is not much improved, what to do.

  6. Hello,

    I have twin boys who have just turned 3, both diagnosed with autism very early, before age 2.

    No one has specifically mentioned screen time to me beyond the usual vague stuff about limiting all children’s screen time, because it’s generally regarded to be unhealthy. No one we have seen has placed any extra emphasis at all on reducing screen time. Or even asked us about it.

    We showed them screens from a young age. With twins, we were worried about them being bored and lacking stimulation. We don’t have much family, and so couldn’t give both boys constant attention. As such we actually made an effort to find them TV shows they responded to, that they could enjoy while sitting in their bouncer chairs.

    Looking back this is clearly the worst thing we could’ve done and I believe it has affected them.

    At the time I didn’t think their development was being affected. A lack of speech and eye contact didn’t bother me as I didn’t know any different, I just thought they were normal. Until my wife invited round another friend of hers with twins of the same age and I was shocked at the level of eye contact and interest the children showed in adults.

    We didn’t at first put our boys into nursery, as my wife doesn’t work and I work from home. So we didn’t think we needed it. But the result is, our boys wouldn’t get to go outside much and watched a lot of TV. Easily more than six hours a day.

    About eight months ago they started going to nursery and we have made effort to do more, and they both make more eye contact and like playing and listening to us read books, but they’re still not talking and we still haven’t managed to not have the TV on in the background for comfort.

    At this point, after reading about this subject, I do believe my boys’ type of autism is in line with the ‘Virtual’ type that is caused by screens. And the fact my boys are making more and more eye contact and don’t seem to have the really withdrawn type of autism found in more severe cases, leads me to believe it’s the screens that have caused this.

    From what I am describing, would you agree? Or am I kidding myself and looking for easy answers? I am going to shut off screens and make all the effort I can to play and socialise with them. Hopefully it will work and they will finally be able to speak to me. I want nothing more in the world right now than to hear their voices.

    1. My brother, my son situation is exactly the same as you have describe urs.
      I hope they doing well and talking now.
      Please let’s hear from you how they are doing to give us some hope
      Thank you
      Regards
      Issac

      1. @Anna Just so you know, research is continuing around the world to identify and treat children who may be suffering from Virtual Autism. If you’re worried about your own child, do you want to talk to someone who can help?

        1. I have the same situation and i have 1 month with no tv and it looks improvement in eye contact and startit babbling mam dad again because he did these but he stopped. but i am afraid if these is it.I don’t know if he will continue his improvement.

          1. Hi @Anna. Helping children who may be suffering from Virtual Autism takes more than simply removing the child from screens. Intense interaction with you and other caregivers is also crucially important. Who you like to be put in touch with an expert who can talk to you about it?

        2. I am in Albania.I have put him in kindergarten and i am looking for an expert to take him.But i would like to know if he will be ok.Will he turn back when i coll him?I am very worried.

    2. Hi I have a daughter that is almost 20 months old. At her 18 month check up with her pediatrician he told me that he had some concerns about her possibly being autistic and it came as a complete shock to me and my husband because we never noticed anything about her up until he mentioned it. So I started googling like crazy and found this page a little over a month ago and immediately did a screen fast on her to see if her eye contact would improve and can’t believe it I was so nervous because she has always been such a happy girl and very smart started saying dada mama nana yea yea so early even waving bye bye had stopped doing a lot of those things now after a little over a month she is starting to notice when we leave the room or if someone is leaving the house coming in and her eye contact is Atleast 60% better and I loved reading everyone’s story about their kids!! You guys have given our family so much hope and I just wanted to say thank you so much for having this page up and I can’t wait to post on here again after I notice even more improvements. 1 thing that I have noticed is my daughter seems to be so shy with kids. Not sure if it’s from not really being around them she doesn’t make eye contact very well with them but with adults she looks at everyone when we are at the park and smiles even. Is this because of the pandemic and not being exposed at a young age to many kids? I watch videos from when she was younger and would play with her cousin and so much more eye contact with him then vs now.

      1. Hello Sarah,
        Thank you so much for commenting on your story and your daughter’s progress when you turned off the digital screen media and greatly increased your social interactions with her. I would say in response to your question about how to help her play with others at this time…I would recommend to SHOW her how to play. Get on the ground with her and her cousin and follow their lead. This means you would first want to watch what they are doing and see how each one is responding. Then become part of the play following her cousin’s lead by asking…”Which toy can I play with?” and allow him to tell you or even show you how he wants you to play with him. I would try to do this while having your daughter sit on your lap and after you have had a turn playing, I would encourage you to offer her the toy to do the same. I would also recommend that if play with others is not coming natural at this point, which means even playing beside her cousin in a form of parallel play- playing close together and observing each other’s play, but not necessarily interacting with each other then you would definitely want to teach in this way by positioning yourself to be part of the play.
        This is also important to do with her at home between the two of you, playing with her on the floor and following her lead. Please continue to keep us posted! So happy for your daughter’s positive steps in development:)

        1. Hi Megha
          My daughter has been much more attentive with us and is doing much better. Some days better than other. I first started the screen fast about 3 and a half months ago and about 2 months ago I started the Nemecheck protocol as well just because it made sense to give her all the right vitamins her body needs to fully heal herself. She definitely isn’t flapping the way she used to as an all day thing anymore and she plays more with kids. Hope to see more gains and be able to share more hopeful information with you.

  7. Screen time fasting which is recommended by Dr Victoria Dunnkley helped my kids recover better.
    I have 7 year old twins diagnosed with combination of developmental delays ADHD,SPD, speech delay and one was on ASD, but not anymore. Two years ago I put them on the Nemechek Protocol which has worked great for us BUT to a certain degree, not completely, not without screen time fast. The progress was going on slowly but some of the symptoms were coming back such us stimming, which meant anxiety. The speech improved, eye contact improved, SPD improved (they are not sensitive to certain sounds anymore and I can even cut their hair without problem). Also meltdowns decreased, anger decreased , stimming was gone 90%, hyperactivity decreased and attention improved so they can sit down and do their school work. But still there was a missing link as I said above. About a year ago we did evaluation, and psychologist advised us to remove all the screens and not to let kids watch even educational videos. I agreed and we did that. I was surprised to see that stimming was gone 100%, no stimming was present. But, after two months occupational therapist started giving them as an AWARD to watch the videos on her phone. Later I found out this type of award is part of ABA method. At first I was not aware of those awards, she told me later. I still did not know of all these researches about screen time and I was only following advise of psychologist. At that time speech therapist also encouraged us to let kids watch educational videos because it is needed for their language development and learning… Ok, I let the kids watch tv again and guess what? The stimming came back. I still did not know of the research and I have not read Dr Victoria’s book. I was wondering for months why the stimming came back. Because they were still on the Nemechek Protocol, I was blaming the quality of omega 3, then maybe it’s olive oil, maybe this,maybe that… Until, we moved…No tv, no computer… Kids changed, they became different,more social, they were playing, they did not have as many meltdowns as before, speech improved, stimming still present, but it is more out of habit, I don’t see anxiety. I was wondering what happened. I started researching about whether screen time has any connections with behavior and found out about virtual autism and I have read the book that was mentioned “Reset your child’s brain”. Kids are still screen time free and still on the Nemechek Protocol which helps their body and brain to better recover and they continue to improve in all areas cognitively, socially, learning quicky, vocabulary is much richer… I can’t thank enough Dr. Victoria Dunkley and Dr Patrick Nemechek for giving me hope that my kids can recover, and they are recovering with few simple changes. Many parents give up on the Nemechek Protocol because they think it is not working. It is working, but you need to remove screens as well and both methods will work much better and the brain will recover much faster. Thank you for writing articles such as this to bring awareness of dangers of screen time!

    1. Wow – what a wonderful testimonial to how removing screens can make a life-changing difference. It is interesting to note that, at least in your situation, addressing the child’s microbiome through the Nemechek Protocol only went so far. You point out the difficulty of staying on top of all the opportunities your twins have to use screens. You don’t necessarily suspect the therapists themselves (inadvertently and with no harm intended) are to blame! Have you developed any strategies for speaking with all folks in contact with your kids about this issue? Probably a good idea to get it out in the open with everyone.

      1. Yes, I did tell the therapists to discontinue those awards, but I had to repeat several times. If I can survive with two hyper kids without wifi, tv, smartphone and tablet, they can, too 🙂
        Regarding the Nemechek Protocol, it does work truly. It is really difficult to go through all the stages of recovery, but it is worth. My kids in two years on the protocol went from non verbal to verbal, one is on the level of his age, the other is behind but he can speak in short sentences. I stayed out of support groups, because for short period being in one of those groups I realized there is barely support present and there are a lot of people coming into groups who discourage others, suggest other supplements, and treatments. The Protocol addresses not only microbiome but also inflammation within body which allows recovery. It works slowly as I said, but hey, what’s few years comparing to whole life if you’ll get functional child who can later take care of himself.
        All the best.

      1. Hi,
        Thanks for asking. They are doing well. Improving in so many areas. They still don’t have screen time, although we did try few months ago to let them watch cartoons to test them, and it did not turn out well, even though it was for two days. They are certainly photosensitive to videos.
        Regarding the Nemechek Protocol, kids are still on it.

        1. Good to hear!!! This gives me so much hope. I started the protocol too. It’s been a month. My daughter is doing well, she started pointing but not very consistent. Still trying to figure out the right dose for her. I stopped screen time compltely. Stimming reduced almost completely but she didn’t stimm that much to start with. Good changes so far. You said both your boys were non verbal?

    2. While I was doing a research about my Sister’s child 3 yo who we diagnosed with ASD at 18 months but we knew that it’s was screen because he was exposed since the first months of his life until one we could not say it was vaccins because we never paid attention on him because he was only on tv but before one month we remember he was smiling and making eye contact and bubbling when we stopped tv, he could sleep well, but he developed a chronic constipation at 4 months when we introduced him on solid food until today he’s 3. We tried biomedical protocol but didn’t work but we know we let him still exposed on the screen, homeopathy didn’t work and now we are on 2 weeks Nemecheck protocol and we still observing but thank because We gonna remove screen and see what Np will bring to him.

  8. My two and half year old daughter sing rhymes only and doesn’t communicate with us. She is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder which is hard for me to believe. She is very smart in other activities. She started watching rhymes at early age of 6 months and continued till two years.after reading this articles I suspect she is also victim of virtual autism. Please help us to know more about this and let me know the recovery chances.

    1. Thank you for writing. You’ve detected your daughter may have a problem at a good time when it still could be reversible. It won’t hurt and probably will greatly help to stop use of all screens in the household when your child is present and have as much face to face contact and play with her as possible. I’m happy to put you in direct touch with a specialist if you send me your email. In the meantime, here is some more info: https://esmautism.wixsite.com/website. Thanks again for reaching out.

    1. Hi Emma. I am going through the same situation but after completely cutting down the screen time have seen lots of improvement in my daughter. its been 3 months, her eye contact is improving, she is responding to her name 50% of the time, taking commands, speaking lots of new words although she has not attained that much of expressive language yet but i am hopeful that soon she will be talking like her peers. U just need to hv patience and stimulate ur child as much as u can.. if child is having sensory issues u can also take help from OT for sensory integration.

      1. What is the status of ur baby now. What changes u noticed now. What were the issues with ur daughter like hand flapping, repetitive behavior. Now how much hand flapping reduced in your baby.

        1. Hi Megha! My daughter is almost 2.5 now, Doing a lot better. She has better understanding now. She can frame 2-3 word sentences sometimes evn 4 words. She has started a lil bit of pretend play but still not playing with other kids that much. On communication side she answers basic question like if someone is eating and i ask her what that person is doing then she will say “eating kar raha hai” but when she doesn’t know the answer of any questions she will repeat the whole question. She has started asking for the things she wants. My neurologist said that 75% of work is done just fine tuning is left as she still hv little bit of latency in transitions and still does a lot of self-talk.

          1. Hello Isha,
            So happy that ur child is doing well. Just wanted to ask you, at what age did you find about her autism? What were the symptoms? How long it took to see these improvements? What therapy did you do? Will be grateful if you reply. Thank you

  9. Please feel free to reach out if anyone needs help. I am a Master’s Level M.Ed virtual autism specialist and have worked with families all over the world and in research studying this protocol with an American University.
    If you feel you can relate to this I can help you. I am also a parent of a child that suffered with virtual autism and had an optimal outcome at age 4.5 after starting at age 3.5. I unknowingly exposed him to between 4-6 hours of screen time a day due to suffering PPD.
    Our story is presented to a large group of military providers for young children with ASD below.
    Please know this is a message of HOPE if your child was exposed to over two hours of screens before the age of 2 and is 5 years old or younger, they may be able to benefit from this protocol for what is known as virtual autism like my son, Max.
    “When we know better we do better!” If you have ASD, this in no way takes away from your unique and special way that God created you and I greatly you support you too…some of my best friends are autistics. I share because I DEEPLY CARE…MY LIFE’s PASSION AND WORK. (Please watch link before contacting me…thank you!)
    https://youtu.be/lp88Qf4fS8Y
    LFrome@me.com

      1. Hi Zizi,
        Thank you for your question to my son’s story. I’m always open to sharing how removing all screen media and immersing my son in social attention from me and others of importance changed his developmental trajectory for the positive. I feel extremely blessed to have had these results with him and to see other families having similar responses with their own children when trying these techniques that are research based to be essential to overall positive developmental outcomes for early childhood.
        Zizi- my son was talking at 3.5 years of age when we started, but he was only combining some repetitive two word phrases together in a robotic tone. He was not on target for his chronological age and at 3.5 years old was only talking as much as a 20 month old. This was a severe delay. His delay was only getting greater as he got older and it was really hard as a mother to watch. If I can be of further help I am a virtual autism therapist and researcher on the topic and would be glad to chat with you over email as stated in this post above. Lfrome@me.com

  10. Dear,

    I am from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I have a cute baby boy, aged about 1 year 10 months. Recently we observed that my baby is not responding well when we calling him by his name. Then we took a visit of Prof. Dr. Pran Gopal Datta and others. They told that my baby is suffering from enlarged adenoid, Iron deficiency Anemia, vitamin D deficiency, cold which is last for more than two months and also suspects suffering from mild Autism. They recommended for some tests. His hearing tests were normal.

    Please note that my baby was used to watching cartoons on TV screen too much. His eye contact is absolutely ok. He just able to talk two words only i.e. TATA AND BABA.

    Shall be greatful, if anyone give me your valuable opinion, what should I do for my baby?

    1. Thank you for writing. I am sorry to hear your son is not progressing as well as you had expected. If you feel he has spent too much time engaging with screen-based activities, please see the post for what to do, starting with keeping all screens off when he is awake and spending as much talking, playing and reading with him as you can. Open-ended playthings like blocks are the best, as is going outside to play with you and other children. In order to set up your household for success, I suggest reading Dr. Dunckley’s book, Reset Your Child’s Brain, which you can find here: https://amzn.to/36tx3FS. You may also want to share the Virtual Autism post with your healthcare providers who may not yet be aware of the condition. Wishing you the best of luck. Awareness of a problem is the first step toward solving it!

  11. Hi Everyone, I see from the comments most of you stopped screen time. I stopped screen time a few days ago on my 35 month old who had 6-7hrs of screen since 6 months and would kindly love to here how your kids are progressing after you stopped screen time and engaged them more so I can better know what to expect.

  12. Hi everyone
    1 year ago i write here and i desperately wanted any answers from parent in the same situations. So now I want to teal you about my son. 1 year ago 1 year old he didn’t have eye contact, didn’t answer to his name enda other things. I left him to much in TV since he was 6 months. Now 1 year after i take of tv and telephone and took him in kindergarten ,afer kindergarten i go out and play and when i go home i play and speak a lot , read books.Now he do everything and started speaking too. You have to know that these didn’t start in 1 month these take time. It took 4 months for him to have eye contact 6 months to respond to his name…

    1. Thank you for reporting back on your son’s progress! It is so important for people to hear that, although it takes time and sincere diligent effort, it WORKS to substitute screen time with play and reading and talking so children have lots of face to face communication, 3-dimensional movement, and use all their senses (not just the small amount of brain, sensory, and muscle power they need to view a screen.)

    2. It’s so great hearing this. Your testimony is more realistic. I have seen tremendous difference in my two yr old after I cut off TV and screens completely. Her attention and skill in solving puzzles and playing correctly with her toys has improved a lot. She also started pointing. And BTW I started her with gfcf diet . I believe cutting sugar also helps with hyperactivity along with gfcf. Good luck to you. Hope to hear updates soon.

  13. I have been preaching this for over 5 years now since my nephew was diagnosed as autistic. He was a very bright baby and was starting to say a few words but stopped and has never talked. His pediatrician told my brother and his wife that screen time was ok as long as it was less than an hour. I kept telling them that screen time is not ok and they should not allow it until 5 years of age, but their response was “you’re not the doctor.” So now my nephew is 5 and doesn’t speak. everything else seems normal to me! I’ve also seen this happen to my coworkers who have had kids and have allowed their baby’s to watch tv and play with tablets at earliest age possible. Now their kids don’t talk either. Ive asked them if their pediatrician had told them about no screen time and unfortunately they all are clueless. Its is very sad that some pediatricians are just as clueless as the poor parents and they put all their trust in these incompetent pediatricians. No wonder the rate of autism is so high! I wish my brother and his wife had listened to me but I’m urging them to sue the dumb ass pediatrician before more innocent parents and babies are hurt!

    1. Thank you for writing in, Michael. It is so important for people to hear your story. I will inquire about about what the American Academy of Pediatrics is telling its members about screen use. They need to more explicitly tie babies and toddlers screen use with slowed (or stopped) language development and altered brain development.

  14. Hi.i am from India.My boy when he was 14monts we gave him Android pH for watching you tube.Afterwatds it was his habit .He watched 6to 10 per day even his sleep time.He was very intelligent .He said word jesturing even some sentences.There was nothing any problem.when he entered 22months of age he became like non verbal,not responding to name,no eye contact,not want to sleep,repetitive behaviour ,flapping .We evaluated one psychraitist who told me that he is autistic.But when I have knew about virtual autism we stopped mobile to him and keep face to face talking and playing with him.After stopping for 2months he now started to give eye contact and his sleep is improved.secondly he said some lost word and comfortable with us.Is it virtual autism?I m confused.

    1. Plz share the status of ur child recovery. I shall be grateful to u . My 28 month old child is also diagnosed with autistic, plz share ur valueable experience with us

  15. Hello! First let me congratulate you on stopping electronic screen media such as tablets, smart phones, television, DVD’s etc for your child. These devices are not recommended for early childhood because they fall far short in the child’s ability to learn from them than a human caregiver whom he loves like You! Our children’s brains are naturally built off of our own and what we choose to provide them within the environment for stimulation as we interact with them. Your son’s case seems similar to that of my son in which my son definitely responded to the treatment for virtual autism. These predisposing factors are that your child had over 2 hours of screens a day before the age of 3 years old which caused less time for social interaction and is also showing autistic like symptoms and is responding positively when the screens are removed. That is what we consider the “test” on if your child would be a candidate for virtual autism. What I must stress, is that you now need to also BE with your child just as much to fill in the time that he is away from the screens. This would mean to be playing on the floor with him and involving him in routines and chores to the greatest extent. When you can’t be with him socially, I encourage you to find someone else that you trust to take over while you have a break and keep him socially interacting with someone as much as possible. The social and communicative deficits of ASD in young children are their greatest weaknesses and when you can spend large amounts of time with them working on these areas while they are still young, you are bound to see the greatest gains as their brain is still highly developing daily to the positives you are pouring into it with love. Please play and interact with your child in a loving natural way 6-8 hours a day. Seek any therapies that may also be recommended by your doctor to be beneficial and keep believing that you will make a HUGE difference in the life of your child for the positive!
    Lori

    1. Hi Lori, I came here from the video where you have shared your own experience. My baby falls under the spectrum and he has been addicted to screens right from age one. He is turning three in the next month. But we suspected him, not being responsive around 2.5 years old and for the past two months we had completely cut off screen. But unlike your kid or few other kids, he wasn’t talking and was completely non-verbal earlier as well (May be because he was glued to the screen from year one itself). I could see very few minute differences now, like the spinning has stopped. But still he hasn’t started talking or doesn’t respond to his name. We are a bit worried as all the testimonials kinda say that, they were able to see considerable changes after cutting screens in one month itself. Do you think he doesn’t fall under virtual autism? Is there anyway we can distinguish?

      1. Hello Priya,
        Thank you so much for reaching out. I want to commend you for researching ways you can help your son with his autism diagnosis and remediate the symptoms to help his development. That is a very proactive mother. With that said, I would encourage you to please not give up hope. I have a few questions for you…
        1) Were all digital screens removed: TV, tablets, smart phones, and all background adult screen media that would be in his view?
        2) Did you remove unnecessary background noise that could inhibit his attention to people and things in his environment such as the radio?
        3) Did you remove any light up and sound electronic toys?
        4) MOST IMPORTANTLY- have you been engaging him constantly as much as possible on one to one play and involvement in daily routines? About 6-8 hours a day. This would mean playing with him on the floor, involving him with helping you with simple chores, playing with him outside, and making him part of your everyday experiences by talking to him about what you both are doing?
        I would love to hear your responses to those questions and that you so much for sharing your story and experiences.
        With Much Continued Hope,
        Lori

  16. Wonderful article on an important subject. I have experienced a large number of children on Autism Spectrum Disorder, majority of them fall in regressive type which is explained here as “Virtual Autism”. A classic type of autism and regressive/ virtual both have same symptoms but the children on later type have more recovery chances if addressed timely in right way and with consistency. Treatment details may be found on YouTube channel:
    https://youtube.com/channel/UC-bNhi_ybPPnp7fbhnRpADA

    1. Thank you for writing and your interest. You have many videos on your YouTube channel. Is there one in particular where you are treating regressive/virtual autism? Many parents are interested in specifics for how to treat the condition.

    2. Hello, Umair Bin Tahir,
      Thank you for sharing your findings and YouTube Channel. I too am curious as to what video you are referencing to on your channel as well. Please let us know specifically if there is a single video you are referring to or specific interventions you have tried that you find helpful for families affected by virtual autism that appears as classical or regressive type.
      In my professional experience as a virtual autism interventionist, I have found cases of virtual autism in which there didn’t appear to be regression and those cases usually begin with screen viewing before 6 months of age for 2 or more hours a day, with 4 or more hours before 6 months of age being the majority of cases in which the child appears to have always been affected by autism and has not had a period where they gained and then lost skills. The children who begin viewing after 6 months in my clinical experience for 2-4 or more hours of digital screen media are those that often appear with regressive type autism. It appears possible that the original and typical patterns of development had most likely started before screen viewing took place for a high number of hours throughout the day consistently.
      As parents and clinicians we always want to remember it is what the child’s brain becomes programmed to through repeated exposure over time that effects how the brain builds connectivity to its environment based on the research we have on child development and neuroplasticity. So if the child is only exposed to this type of high amounts of screen media for a week or so, there is less chance of damage as long as the high amounts of social interaction and low/or no screen media resume after this short time. (I am definitely not recommending doing this to a child) It is children who begin watching after 6 months with consistently high rates of exposure that we have noticed the regressive type of autism for the clinicians, researchers and families with whom I have worked . The most wonderful thing about this topic of virtual autism, is that if there is high screen exposure of 2 hours or more a day the first three years of life, which would also include less or lower amounts of social interaction with the child due to there only being so many hours of awake time in a young child’s day, the protocol of removing the screens and engaging the child in floor play, involving them in routines, reading, playing with them outside, and getting them the speech, occupational or other therapies that they need while focusing on eye contact and bonding…has been very beneficial and much developmental progress can be made in much shorter time periods than if the screens were not removed and this approach was not taken. Removing screens and increasing social interaction with a child having these precursors to development that is showing signs of autism or for those already diagnosed with ASD tend to greatly help those affected per family and therapist report.

  17. Hello, sorry, trying to decipher some comments. So is it safe to say that majority of “virtual autism” diagnosis was applied to kids who never acquired any skill snd didn’t regress? Or did you see those cases as well?

    1. Hello Dmama77-
      Virtual Autism is ultimately believed to be caused by two things based on the research that has currently been done on the subject and that which is in progress.
      The definition truly involves a type of autism that mimics classical autism and that the child is being exposed to more than 2 hours of screen time a day consistently before the age of three AND due to the large amounts of screen time or other environmental factors the child also had decreased social interaction with others.
      This being said, we have witnessed children with this profile fit into two categories but both have these same predetermining factors to meet the criteria mentioned above for virtual autism.
      1) The child watched more than 2 hours of screen media within the very first few months of life consistently and had decreased social interaction- this profile either looks like the child is gaining skills till about 12-15 months and then back slides, or makes it makes it look like the child has always had slower development and/or then eventual red flags for ASD.
      2) If a child became exposed to high screen time after 7 months of age with decreased social interaction it tends to mimic a case of classical regressive autism where the child was developing typically and then started regressing between 18 to 30 months or more depending on the amount of screen time and the parent’s or physician’s awareness of the delays and symptoms of ASD the child is displaying.
      I hope this answer’s your questions. Thank you for your interest.
      Lori

  18. Hello Lori! Do you experience alot of visual stimming amongst these children with Virtual Autism?

    We have seen some progress after shutting off all screens but the side glancing etc. Remains the same.
    It’s been 4 months since we shut off the TV and the screen Time has been replaced with playtime

  19. Hello Joseph,
    We definitely do see the visual stimming or sensory stimulators behaviors heightened after screens are removed for almost every child. Some longer than others and some have more cravings than others. Using peripheral vision to look at items as well as looking at lines in the environment such as lines on tile floor from the grout or lines on counter top edges is another common visual stimulators behavior. I highly recommend more time focused on eye contact with your child and holding objects to your eyes as much as possible during play, playing slightly lower than your child for more ease of eye contact, increase outside time and physical movement time and lastly join the stimming with them to make it social as long as they are not hurting themselves or anyone else. Sometimes you find the stimulators behavior may have a certain purpose for seeing something a certain way and you can make it a social experience based on your common understanding of what may be fascinating to your child of viewing something that way. Also, try to continue to take notes and write them somewhere such as your phone in a notes section to describe the stims, the length and frequency. Look back at this data and compare monthly. We would want to see it decreasing. Thanks so much for your interest.

    1. Thank you for the detailed reply. I really appreciate it!
      We have started following your instructions in joining the stims and the stimming seems to change it’s form. Hopefully it’ll lessen with time

      Eye contact has been improving steadily except when sitting very close to me, but not the response to his name. However! He calls me very often if I leave the room. Sometimes just as play in order to see if I show up or not (I always do) so I guess that’s a step in the right direction 🙂

      I will update on our progress in the coming months

      1. Hi Joseph,
        I’m so glad to hear the positive update on your son! Eye contact and awareness of the environment is so essential for learning as our children’s brains are literally built off of the interactions with others and environments that surround them. With that improved eye contact will come more opportunities to learn.
        I’m also happy to hear that your little one wants to be with you and will call your name when you leave the room. I wonder what would happen if you do the same. When you leave the room have you ever tried calling his name in a playful hide and seek way or a song? Something like..”Where oh, where oh, where is (name?)” “Where oh, where oh, where is (name?)” “Where oh, where oh, where is (name?)” Where can (name) be?
        Singing and playing these types of games while calling your child’s name with expression create motivation to respond because of the playfulness, intonation and affect in your voice.
        Please continue to keep us posted on your son’s progress and thanks again for the update! Stay well!

  20. My son is 27month old.he diagnosed with high risk of autism. His screen time is more than 7 hour in a day. After withdrawal screen his eye contact improved sometimes he immitate our action too plz guide us. is he suffering from virtual autism.plz guide us after how many time virtual autism reversed

    1. Hello, Megha. So to glad you got in touch. Please be sure to watch the entire video at https://durablehuman.com/VirtualAutismWebinar and download the parent resource sheet on this page. Also look at the comments on this page from Lori Frome. She will inspire you! It will probably take months to see lots of improvement, so please be patient and continue keeping him away from screens and instead playing and talking and reading to him and giving him playthings that don’t plug in or have batteries. Taking him out for walks and to play every day is also very good for him. It’s possible that in addition to continuing to do all that, you may need the help of an early intervention specialist, such as a speech pathologist. Best of luck and keep in touch!

    2. Megha-
      I’m so glad you have removed screen media from your son and are increasing your time interacting with him in its place and seeing positive signs such as greater eye contact. All the things Jenifer mentions are very important and try to involve him in as much as possible in your day. Times such as family routines helping you put laundry in the washer as you
      say “in” and throw in the clothes a piece at a time and make it a game or take a greater part in brushing his teeth by helping to turn the water on and off as you say those words provide opportunities to learn while doing and create adaptive skills for self-care. Definitely see what interventions your doctor recommends as Jenifer says and get them in place if possible. You will continue to see positive signs. Stay well and continue to give us updates! You have taken the first step and this is a journey that is achievable one day at a time. I have great hopes for your son, it just takes time for the brain to change and behavior to change, but with these things in place you will have all the elements you need to be successful and continue to see positive changes in his development.

    1. Hello Iyer,
      We find best outcomes and more rapid improvements for children affected by virtual autism when the radio or synthetic music that doesn’t match up with the environmental events is removed. Live music and playing instruments is a wonderful activity but our recommendation based on client treatment is to keep things like the radio off. Thank you for your question.

  21. So I read this article a 5weeks ago.
    Have twin boy and girl but they are both not talking and the boy was not giving any eye contact. Too away all screen time and took a month off of work to give them a @100%. After 3 weeks the boy looks at people now when they come to him and talk to him with good eye contact. Unless he is busy playing with something it gets a little hard to get his attention. But both twins didn’t turn to look when you called there names and now after a month they both do. The girls has started to point at things she wants but the boy still has to pull you to things he wants. Hope in time that changes. He use to flap his hands and rock back and forth against things. The rocking is maybe once a day or every other day when no one is paying attention to him now. The hand flapping still happening whlith him screaming but less. And he still doesn’t point to things. But I am hoping for the best because week by week without the screen I am seeing improvements. Just much more on the girl than the boy. She actually bought me a bag of chips to open for the first time yesterday. When she never bought items she wanted yet. She use to just take us to the item and looked at it. O yea I forget they are 20 months today.

    1. I am choked up reading this — that you are so in tune and wonderful to take a month off work to work with your twins! They are clearly making progress! Please watch all of this video for some more insight about what to do: https://durablehuman.com/VirtualAutismWebinar. You will see that improvement takes time, but it DOES HAPPEN with your love combined with no screens (not even a TV on in the background while the twins are around). Lori Frome suggests keeping track of the changes so you can see over time to keep track of developments and see the progress being made. Also be sure to download and read her parent Resource sheet you will see at the top or bottom of this page. Please stay in touch! (And Lori’s contact info is on the Resource page)

    2. Hi, I am in week 7
      my daughter is speaking new words and points with now problem to things she wants. Understand me when I speak to her 85% of the time.
      Her twin brother on the other hand has some improvements. He is building more blocks higher, attempt to play with is twin sister now, played catch for the first time with a rubber ball, bought me a game we play for the first time. I have 8 kids and he been playing more with his older brothers and sisters (they have never had any developmental delay) but they were never exposed to screens till after 2yrs but the pandemic changed everything this time. He continues not to speak only 2 words clearly but use it in the right way. His hands flapping has reduced by 50%. Hoping for him to catch up to his sister soon. O yea have noticed hugging him tightly whenever he goes to flap has been helping a lot with him. Took him this week for a follow up with his pediatrician and she did mention to me he seems to be a hyper active baby. His twin sister is not.
      Again. Thank you for your help and everyone story of progress. It’s been helping me cope with the situation.

  22. Alex,
    Your dedication and implementing these positive changes to your children’s environment is paying off. A tool for anyone to use that may want to monitor symptoms and how your child is changing is found below. With my son, I completed one each month and would see the score drop by 5 or more points. Many of our clients use this tool with similar results. This gives you specific data over time on what is improving and what areas need the most attention. I also kept a weekly list of changes for my son the first 13 weeks in my phone as the changes were so rapid that I wanted to keep specific examples of things he began to do, just like you mention with each of your twins. Here is a link to the tool below.
    http://www.childbrain.com/patient-education/the-asd-assessment-scale-screening-questionnaire/

  23. Hello Team,

    First of all a really a big thanks for a video and article on VA, My daughter screen time was 8-10 hours a day since lockdown, she was used to have screen time since 6th month and now she is 2.2 , Past month I identified some unusual behaviour from my daughter like she is not responding to her name , repitative actions , no social skill not mingling with kids. we stopped completely screen time to zero and then after we observed some noticeable things like she responds to her name at oftentimes but not in busy/engaged activities.

    But we observed that her tantrums got increased like biting , aggressive . When we doesn’t take her out

    Kindly please suggest

    1. Does ur child make good eye contact and did he/she did pointing to objects for communication. Plz rply mine 27 months old have same symptoms

    2. Hello Imran,
      I am so glad you found us and you are seeing positive changes the past month in your daughter and her development as you remove digital screen media and increased social interaction with her.
      Behaviors like tantrumming and biting at 2 years old are forms of communication AND also a developmental milestones on trying to get their needs met at this age as they navigate to learn more appropriate ways to do so successfully. They are trying out what works in their environment to communicate with you about their “BIG feelings” about something or some event.
      I recommend getting down to your daughter’s eye level at this point and waiting for her to be calm. Don’t be reactive as this can continue the cycle of this behavior, just be physically close and attentive for he so when she stops to look at WHY you aren’t doing anything you are there to show her more appropriate ways of communicating. When your daughter looks to see why you are not saying anything, then put words with her feelings. “You are upset, you want the/to _______, We can have/do ________ when _____, let’s go have/do this now.” Usually tantrums are from not getting something they want/need at this age. We as parents cannot give our children everything at anytime they please, nor do we want to reward their forms of tantrumming to get/do things even though this is a way of communicating, we want them to communicate in ways that are desirable, such as gestures, sounds, words at this age. Acknowledging what your child wants is the first step to her being “heard” and also allows her to know you understand her and puts “words” instead of huge feelings paired with negative behaviors to get her needs met.
      With this example, if you cannot provide your daughter with what she wants in the moment after giving her time to settle and model what she wants with words and the opportunity to request more appropriately with gestures, sounds, words, then quickly redirect her to doing something else.
      An example, “Oh look…mommy needs help cooking, can you get this ingredient with me and help her put it in the pan? She needs your help, quick!”
      Distraction and redirection are wonderful techniques to help a toddler forget about the tantrum and get them engaged in something else that is more social and productive and also especially effective when it is novel and new, and something they may not often get the opportunity to do.
      I hope these suggestions help. Don’t just try them once. Your daughter will need to get used to this approach. With time and effort put in now as you navigate these tantrums, you will give her the understanding and words she needs to communicate as well as the opportunities to do so and see success in the near future.

  24. My 36 months old son was diagnosed with mild to moderate ASD. He was exposed to screen at 12 months and increased time upto 7 hours a day. We noticed changes in his behaviour when he was 30 months old. After that we removed screen and started therapy- OT, Spl. Ed. since 3 months ago. Now his eye contact improved, often respond to his name, reduced hand flapping n toe walking. But he is still non verbal. But he demands for his needs. Is it virtual autism. Plz help me.

    1. Hi Robit,
      Make sure to read the comments above for the criteria of virtual autism.
      Are you seeing changes that are rapid and a sequence of developmental milestones that is being met more quickly than before removing screens and increasing social interaction? If so, I would continue screen removal and increased social interaction with your therapists’ help and continue to be as involved in her daily routines and play as you can. By doing these steps you are doing everything you can to help your child communicate.
      The simplest form of communication starts by looking, followed by imitation with objects/body, then gestures, then sounds, words, and finally phrases. Above all of these other things though, in order to have functional communication your child must build their receptive language and understand what they want to communicate. This step of understanding lays the foundation to effective communication in the future and is vital! Our children build their opportunities to understand from their environment and their interactions with us. Their brains are literally built off of ours and when we interact with them physically and socially we give them many, many opportunities for learning and understanding as we communicate back and forth in a type of serve and return, which I love to equate to a “dance” in communication. Your child does one thing with a toy, and you make a comment or try and do something along with them and their play back. Then you wait and see what your child does next, then comment and do something back. With this type of play and involvement in daily routines as much as possible, you are giving your child every opportunity to learn more about language and socially communicating, which starts again with understanding that lays the foundation for verbal speech of expression. I believe it will come for your child, just continue the “dance” and you will see improvements as your child continues to fill in the developmental sequence that proceeds expressive language. It takes time. You can do it! I believe your efforts will be rewarded as you continue to stay the course and lay this vital foundation for your child with your therapeutic team.

  25. Since we stopped Screen time to completely to zero is only 17 days, eye contact okay, responding to name 50% in a day , but her sleep time was increased more, pointing to object not yet..

    1. Thanks for sharing details with us. M so glad to hear positive changes in daughter .Did u give her any intervention if yes plz do share with us . Plz keep updating the status of daughter recovery hope fast and speedy recovery.

    2. Hello imran
      Hope ur daughter is doing well, hope she js improving day by day plz share the status of ur child recovery

      1. Hello Megha,

        Thanks for asking the progress

        Well, it’s been 1 month with no screen the following is

        1) Good Sleep

        2) Eye contact no big improvement

        3) response to name occasionally

        4) Tantrums are now not that much during screen

        5) Biting and teeth grinding increased 🙁

        6) Hyperness reduced somewhat

        How about yours Megha?

  26. Hi LORI,

    Here is an update for 21 days of screen time stopping

    1) My baby Sleep time was drastically increased (now she sleeps at 9pm and woke up at 7am and again sleeps at 10? And woke up 2:30-3pm) *sleeps again at 1 pm and woke up at 2:30-3pm

    2) Repetitive behaviour got decreased

    3) No speech improvement

    4) looking at when we calling her name that is okay not big improvement (looks 30% in day)

    5)eye contact improved some what

    6) My major concern is she is very hyper and she always wants to go out and running all the way in parks and outside

    Could you please suggest LORI

  27. Hi Imran,
    I’m so glad to hear about these positive changes so quickly. A toddler this age is supposed to be “on the move” and you may be equating her activity level in comparison to before you removed screen media. The effects of watching a screen which immediately create a child to be stimulating screen automatically engage the child so much visually they have to be still.
    I recommend definite opportunities for lots of outside interactive play as the outside environment cannot be created inside the home. Up until about 200 years ago we as humans always were outside working, playing, basically living in some form or another and our brains wired appropriately to this type of sensory stimulation. Now, our need for movement continues to by a phylogenetic need, (one that comes from birth.) Continue to honor that as your child’s needs and follow her lead. To increase her attention I suggest using a move sit, move sit approach. Do something with movement, such as playing on the playground, take a snack and sit and eat with her at the picnic table or on a blanket while you get a couple of pages of reading in as she eats, move to doing the slide with her or another preferred movement activity, and then come back to enjoying a toy such as a puzzle on the blanket. Make sure you reinforce any undesired activities with a positive consequence. “One more” puzzle piece in and then it’s time to play on the playground. This “one more” approach also increases the child’s ability to attend to unpreferred tasks.

  28. @RICHA
    pls update ur daughter’s recovery status, m facing the problem with son .hope ur daughter is doing good

  29. My son 2 .5years old is victim of virtual autism.
    One month screen off his therapies started.
    He is improving.
    Better eye contact
    Wants to go out
    Pull me closer to feel safe
    Less stimming
    But head banginng and biting come up

    My question
    Is virtual autism a fake autism ?
    Will it go away completely ?
    How long it takes to be normal in this virtual autism case?

    1. Hi Gull,
      I’m so glad you are seeing positive signs and symptom reduction in your child since removing screens. Often with less synthetic sensory stimulation from screens, the child will seek out or avoid sensory experiences depending upon their personality and environment. It sounds like your child is seeking sensory input and this can be shaped into ways that are safe and social. With the biting…there are usually warning signs that come before the bite, such as a tight clench in the jaw or fists made with hands. Look for these signs and see if they are antecedents (precursors) that occur before the actual behavior of the biting. If so, perhaps you could provide your child with a firm massage around the cheeks and mouth saying – I know you want to use your teeth, let mommy help make you feel better by rolling your mouth. Also providing a frozen wet washcloth or teething ring while you go through this behavior with them helping them to regulate their big emotions or sensory needs. This type of shaping of behavior helps provide a more acceptable and social response to a negative behaviors that can be self-injurious or injurious to others. The remainder or your questions can be answered in other prior posts and I thank you for sharing your experiences here and asking questions to help your child. Continue to update as your responses and experiences help us all!

      1. Thank u lori frome for a detailed reply
        My question is same again
        Is it virtual autism us fake autism?
        Or a transient ?
        Can children under 3 recover fully?
        Plz answer .
        I m in uncertainty i blame myself i made my normal child autistic n now he iscstruggling so i am. Plz reply

  30. Thanks So much LORI for assistance,

    Here is an update I took my daughter for assessment they said that she has moderate autistic with ADHD traits, because she has no attention at all always wants to run and not sitting at all 🙁 . They Suggested that my daughter needs Behaviour Therapy first. I never knew this much damage screen will do to my daughter.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Imran

      Much of what you are describing was similar to our now 3-year old daughter. We stopped screen 7 months ago and after one months, the improvements were shy (immediate improvement was the sleep). Now, we can see big jumps in her eye contact and responding to name. The sudden need to move and the stimming has also reduced quite a lot. Now, even hearing very shy first words again.

      Patience is key and yes, there is clear weak awareness on how damage screen time has worldwide.

      All the best and keep us posted.

        1. @Dalia it took around 5 months for when we started seeing less stimming. For example, she used to run in circles singing songs in a repetitive manner…after 5 months, this became very rare while she might be still “walking” around the table when singing (only selectively).

        1. She is having 1 hour per week occupational therapy (in Europe this is similar to ABA specialist). The therapist offers her a number of play options, creates distractions to stimulate her responsiveness, etc. The session is also for us to watch and learn the techniques and the therapist would give us weekly tips, now focused on communication. Like now, we are focused on the “yes” and “no” with face gestures…she explains that this opens up a big world of needed communication. Also we are encouraging the finger pointing and showing my daughter how this can help her get what she is asking for. Currently, she only puts her hands up close the object she wants.

          Besides that, we also had sessions (in the same center) with a specialist Pediatrician, psychologist and another therapist to assess her development. We will visit them once every 6 months, and they will also align with the kindergarten teachers on the needed support. In our situation, most of the intervention happens at home so we are the tools and they are our guiding experts.

    2. Hi Irman,
      I’m sure she will be in good hands. Make sure the ABA is done in a social way. I am a social behaviorist myself. This virtual autism program can be shaped into almost any therapeutic protocol when the right social pieces are put in that focus on eye contact, relationship, positive reinforcement from people and play. Etc.

  31. Can anyone please tell me how r your kids improving? Plz share the status of recovery of kids . This gives hope to others parents also.

  32. @Richa..plz let us know…how is ur daughter doing now…what improvements u noticed after screen removal…I m facing the same problem..

  33. Mine 28 months old son diagnosed with high risk of autism. Lori will u plz make me clear what is difference is between diagnosed with autism and high risk of autism according to mchart. Can a child u who regress thing now started recalling after increasing interaction and zero screen approach is the sign of virtual autism

    1. Yes! We have seen many cases where children were hitting milestones up until 18-24 or more months and then regressed. When this regression is caught quickly and the child is still under the age of 5 years we have really good results. The older they are and the more severe they are the longer it takes! You can do this! Keep following this group for support and ideas.

  34. Hello experts and lovely parents,
    As many dud here, I have benefited greatly from reading this article and all the posts from parents here since 7 months ago. I want to share my story that is also a story of hope:

    I have a 3 year old daughter that have developed with great interactive, motor and emotional skills until she turned 1.8 year old. Starting then we started seeing a regression in sleeping and eating patterns, communication and interactive skills. Teachers noticed that she started not to respond to her name and that she is not playing with other kids, only ok to be next to them. She also became non-verbal.

    We read about virtual autism and stopped all screen time 7 months ago. First 3 months, we saw great (near 90%) improvement in sleeping amd eating and near 50% better eye contact. After that, she started responding to name most of the time, responsive to direction (like following to different room, pressing buttons ..) and has the social smile and laugh again. Her eye contact is now as sharp as it was before the regression. Her development cycle in the 7 months was a combination of leaps and stagnation. We are hopeful now for the next leap in getting the verbal skills back.

    The high probability of virual autism affecting our daughter’s development was confirmed by a specialist doctor and psychologist. We are still on waiting list for therapist support and relying mainly on home intervention.

    Besides reading books, spending floor time play and lots of imitation and talk, what are your recommendations?

    Thankyou amd goodluck to all the families out there!

    1. I absolutely love Laura Mize and her Teach Me to Talk website for podcasts and resources to help young children who’s parents want to learn the interventions by taking an active role in their child’s therapy. Her manuals and her podcasts are geared towards parents and early intervention providers and many are specific to autism and also speech/language delay. Her materials/website are mentioned in Jenifer’s list for resources for are included in the “Virtual Autism Resource List”

      1. Hi Imran. I’d like to also answer your question to Lisa. If your child is experiencing autistic-like symptoms after viewing hours of screen media a day, the treatment advanced here is to stop exposure to all screens, including your phone and TV in the background and replace that with face-to-face social interaction, play and reading with parents, siblings, grandparents, and other loved ones and free play with non-electronic toys. Thanks for writing in! – Jenifer (“admin”)

  35. I would like to ask all the parents whether any case is there where kids after certain has fully recovered from virtual autism?
    Does virtual autism really exists and is there any hope?
    My kid is of 2.4 years and has shows autistic behaviours.

  36. I see a lot of requests here for personal stories, so here’s mine. Our son was a quiet child but developing normally otherwise until 1.5 years. We’ve always been a “TV in the background” type of family, but when the pandemic hit and my husband and I both had to work and “asynchronous distance learn” our older 2 in the evening, our youngest got a lot of tablet time, 4+hrs/day, more on weekends. From 1.5-2, he was slowly developing, but then from 2-2.5 just stopped progressing and even regressed some. The last combined words I heard were “come on, mommy” in Oct 2020 and then it was gone. At 2.5 he had 15-20 single words, and daycare said all he would do is mope in a corner with an electronic toy all day. His receptive language was horrible (couldn’t follow any sort of direction reliably). His eye contact was gone. While we waited for a Developmental Peds screening (he epically failed his MCHAT), we did what we could at home:
    – Eliminate all screens
    – Once screens were gone, he gravitated to electronic toys, so we eliminated those as well
    – Constant one on one time; either my husband or I would always be engaging with him. He loved walks, so we would walk to the park, and slowly one at a time learn words “rock” “shell” “stick” “slide”… they came very slow at first… it would take 1-2 days for each word… but slowly he caught on and was able to pick up nouns, then recasting helped him learn verbs
    – Insurance paid for speech therapy, and we supplemented with self-paid occupational and behavioral; this embedded an aid with him at daycare 3.5-4.5 hrs/day to help with constant interaction and develop receptive language and social skills

    By the time we met with Developmental Peds 3.5 months later, he was up to several hundred words. Eye contact back. Pointing/following a point back. Joint attention back. Social reciprocity back. Still far behind, but no concerns for autism at that time. Dx: MERLD.

    We’re now on 7.5 mos without screens. He’s 3y3mo. Speaks more words than we can count (we stopped tracking after 600 several months ago). Potty trained at exactly 3y. Rides a 2 wheel bike with training wheels and a 2 wheel scooter. Graduated from occupational therapy. Language skills in 13th percentile and climbing. Regularly speaks in 3-4 word sentences (sometimes more, sometimes less). He’s still talking in 3rd person outside of carrier phrases, pragmatics are weak, and he doesn’t ask questions well, but everyday brings new progress. He knows colors and shapes and counting to 11. He knows concepts like dark, windy, up/down, big/little, empty, later/right now. He’s just starting to progress beyond parallel play with his classmates. Just the other day, he kicked a ball back and forth with me for 5 minutes because he wanted to imitate big brother’s soccer game. He’s excited to include me in his play, “Mommy, jump!” “Mommy get in big trampoline!” “Mommy go down slide!”

    Would he have been dx with autism had we not eliminated screens and started intervention before our meeting with Dev Peds? I don’t know. Maybe he was MERLD all along. But I do know the rate of his progression once we eliminated screens has blown everyone away. We’ve still got quite a ways to go, and I’m still filled with worry for his future every day. But – in the grand scheme of everything we’ve done to help my little guy – I want to pass on how much eliminating screens has helped my son. Have patience, don’t give up.

    1. How wonderful for all @KR that you shared your story! I’m sure it will give hope to everyone who reads it. So fantastic to know your son has made such marvelous progress! You have also pinpointed the problem with “virtual autism.” If a toddler who has been overusing screens is diagnosed with ASD but the screentime is never stopped, would they then spend a lifetime with that label and behavior…when it could have been avoided? That’s why I’m so glad and grateful to you and everyone on this site for discussing and bringing to light this subject. It is crucially important these children achieve their potential and not have it snuffed out. I tried to convey that message in a positive way here in a TEDx. See what you think: https://durablehuman.com/TEDx

    2. LOVE THIS!!! KR- You and your son’s team have really brought in everything you could and devoted all you could with a sense of hope and perseverance to help your son! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR SHARING! You are a hope and inspiration to so many on this post snd so is your child. We usually notice complete remission of the language delay between 18-24 months and social delay remission by 30 months post screen removal and high amounts of interaction with this protocol.
      Once the eye contact comes back and desire to be with people…the foundation has been set for the progress forward as children learn from watching real people interact with their environment and them in real time. A child’s highest developmental outcome is possible given a supportive and attentive environment based on the child’s and families needs and that is unique to each one!

  37. Hello all! Wanted to tell you about something new. Here are some tips about how to travel with a baby or toddler without giving them an ipad or phone for distraction. Wrote it after taking a no-tech car trip with my daughter’s new baby — and we actually had fun! 😊👶 Take a look: https://durablehuman.com/BabyTravel Stay durable! – Jenifer

  38. Hi everyone! Thank you for sharing your stories. I have one question – are video calls with family members also not recommended for children with this diagnose?

  39. Hii Lori
    Is child who is doing Teo walking, hand flapping, rocking, is also happen in virtual autism or this is case of classic autism

    1. Hi vishal,
      If the kid has been exposed to too much screen time > 2 hours a day with little social engagement and play with the baby then we can say , screen is an cause. Provided kid was meeting all milestone and then suddenly regressed

    1. Absolutely not recommended by me…don’t waste your time and hard work. The young mind and the neuroplasticity is what we feel alters the early child’s brain for the positive as our brains at this age per Michael M. author of the book “Soft-wired” literally builds connectivity to what it is exposed to in its environment. If your child has had a lot of screen time early in life, the rules of neuroplasticity would say the brain wired according to the screen time and other environmental factors that were and weren’t present in the environment. As you work on creating an environment for your child’s best developmental outcome, you would not want to give it more of anything you felt may have negatively affected your child’s development as the research has shown…but replace all that screen time with what are shown to be healthful options for the young mind…learning while doing with others in play and daily routines.
      This is in essences what’s needed and important…save the movie for another person to share with that doesn’t have this history and enjoy the important and essential activities with your child…building a stimulating social environment that will be wired by what you provide it…no money needed per say…just a lot of love and attention in the ways we are all sharing! You are more than enough! Especially with your “village” of others supporting your efforts too!

  40. Hello. I have 3 year and 9 month old son. We stopped his screen time 2 months back, and from having no functional words he is commnicating with one word now.which i great, he plays with his sister, loves to go out, now he looks or just goes to other children. I wanted to ask, now that he has one word speech and a few two words phrases, how long will it take for him to develop proper speech, also, occasional echolalia to new phrases is normal?

    1. Hi Fatima,
      In typically developing children, echolalia or memetic imitation is a language developmental milestone that occurs around 18 months of age and is hopefully supported and encouraged by those in a supportive language environment. You label an object and your child will repeat the label. Please continue to do this type of labeling and encourage more two word phrases with single words that your son has mastered by combining two words he already uses. Such as “Bye-Bye” and “Mommy” to become “Bye-Bye, Mommy”. Be sure to practice these two word phrases in context of the situation for faster learning, such as saying “Bye-Bye Mommy” “Your mom is going to work.” Lastly, when we speak to our children they listen, the more words we speak the research points to larger vocabulary gains before kindergarten in families that were studied by Dana Suskind author of “Thirty Million Words.” As you continue forward on this journey be sure to include adjectives such as “Blue box” “Sad puppy” etc to give him a variety of work types. Thank you for writing in with your questions and I hope this helps some of them.

  41. Hello imran
    My child is 2 year 5 month old he scored 9 marks in mchat/r which indicates high risk of autism. He hits all his milestone on time he played hide and seek with us knows waving his hand to bye bye. At this time screen exposure was 2 to 3 hour per day but after that screen hours increased by 7 to 8 hour per day then he stopped responding on his name. So many features (almost features of autism ) developed in his personality.
    We removed all the screen 2 months back but improvement is there but not so noticeable
    Eye contact improved to 30 to 40%
    Respond to name is rarely
    Sleep quality improved
    Eating habbit improved
    Hand flapping reduced 5 to 10 %
    Teo walking resolved

    But my pediatric neurologist and developmental pediatric told me there is no concept of virtual autism so confused

    1. Hi, Megha. Have you shared this post with your pediatric neurologist? You may want to also show them this response from Nusheen Ameenuddin, MD, MPH, MPA, Assistant Professor, Mayo Clinic and Chair of American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media that she wrote to me in an email: “Even with these observations by parents [who are commenting on this post], before we can draw any conclusions, we would need more information about other factors that may confound these findings. For example, we know from research that if parents are engaging in passive media use, they talk less to their children and in order to develop language skills, young children need to hear conversation and have a back-and-forth with parents and other caregivers. If, for example, parents are spending more time engaged in media use whether it is for work or entertainment, especially during the pandemic, they may not be able to converse or engage with young children as much as they did before or because of lockdowns, they might have their children at home with them while they are multitasking instead of having them in a child care facility where they would ideally be engaged bye child care professionals and other children, so that could be a potential confounding factor in some of the observations that parents have described on your website. We do have good evidence that young children, especially those under the age of 18 months who engage in screen time can have delayed expressive language skills even if they are watching supposedly “educational“ videos, so it is not surprising to me that with screens serving as babysitters during very difficult times with limited resources, Younger children are not developing the language skills they would otherwise be developing with normal interaction, conversation and reading with adult caregivers. I would refer you back to AAP recommendations for no screen time for children under 18months to two years of age which is a long-standing policy with good evidence behind it.”

  42. Yes lori frome is right
    Its a new topic
    And virtual autism exist but i must say we should call it over exposure of media syndrome.
    Which is curable and it takes time .
    Autism is a word which is hard for parents to accept Thats why people here confuse.
    Virtual autism is lockdown autism . Its covid autism . People left their children in hands of media and hand held screens which caused them a big problem which is giving a picture of autism. But in fact its just a case like normal flu and covid. Same symptoms but severity different.
    Sensory issues arise after over use of screen and a situation mimic autism and people are made confused that what’s going on. Everything is looking like autism but it’s not.
    Just don’t waste more time to find whether or not virtual autism true. Fill the gap of time which ur child wasted on screen. Nothing on earth is impossible if u r determine . God helps those who help themselves. Just believe those who r writing here they know it exist as i know. My 2 n half year son is also victim but when i removed screen within one month he got better eye contact, he recognises me more n more, he seems more present, doing activities like bubble popping with me yes in one month screen off. I am from pakistan and i am working on my son with my therapist on his sensory issue . We hope to resolve him recover him soon by grace of Allah. His sleep improve but its not magic its time effort believe and fill the gap. Get determine to revive ur children from screen spell. U will get them back soon. Virtual austism get worse if u don’t treat it on time just focus on child not on diagnosis. Dont label ur child label the problem n solve it. It exist but it’s not autism but it looks like one due to sensory issues and behaviour irregularities. Hope those who still r confuse get to know that they to recover kids as soon as they could with efforts. Thank u

    1. Gull,
      Your passion as a parent and your obvious desire to help other parents and children is very apparent in this post. Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings as a father and an advocate for what we do call virtual autism in the research community. The fact is that virtual autism will test like classical autism on standardized testing used throughout the world and yet unlike classical autism will be able to respond quickly and effectively in treatment of the core deficits of autism if applied to a child with a history of high screen use before the age of 3 (two or more hours a day,) which would also then cause a decrease in social interaction due to those hours not being ones in which the child would be engaged with other people in their environment.
      This has happened to many people during Covid, but has existed possibly since screen media has become more prevalent and invasive in our culture throughout the decades.
      Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings with us as a parent, your beautiful passion to help others going through something similar that has caused emotional pain, and your desire to share your thoughts on what excessive screen exposure is doing to our precious children…our most valuable resource for the future of our world.

  43. Hi lori frome
    My son who is 2 and half
    1month 1 week screen off

    Eye contact came but not very good.
    Depend on his mood but we can feel he is present now with us when we try to interact with activities.

    Respond to name is rare

    Babbling comes like koko taya ..prior he used to say baba only then stopped now again language is somewhat try to come.but senory problem is hurdle

    Sensory issues highlighted
    Looking at cars wheel
    At people feet as he used to look at cartoom dancing and their feet on screen
    Too much mouthing and oral sensory problem
    We r giving him gum massage and fiber light therapy
    But still look at line on tiles and walls . Not at home but when he goes somewhere and he finds new environment full of different texture line etc.
    He started stimming like walking on toes and flapping hand when he is left alone under observation he does as u ask him to do. Pop bubbles look at small activities only do with one finger like moving or pressing blocks on or towards right place. He seems good in cognition but something seems stopping him the sensory distraction dont let him focus.

    He looks for me when i am not around pull my arm around him.
    For the first time in life he came after me in kitchen seems he was looking for me . Forwarded his arms to be picked up. Then held his head on my shoulder.

    Sometimes while sleep he gets scared n cry n yell and get out of control.
    Sometimes he wakes up and i say plz sleep again n he listen n sleeps.

    His biting reduced to 70% but comes back rarely. Head banging stopped but sometimes he tap his head with his hand

    Plz guide me i believe if i work on sensory issues i will revive him back like a miracle …. thank u

    1. Hi Gull,
      Congratulations on the
      Successes you have seen in just a little over 5 weeks of screen removal and increase in socially interactive time spent with your son.
      I’m so glad you have noticed some positive things that you have mentioned. The positives that you are seeing such as an increase in eye contact, desire to be around others the child is attached to, environmental awareness of people and things that are new in the environment, and desire to communicate that increases with babbling as your son has done as well as gestures is all amazing. I am attaching a resource by the First Words Project from Florida State University for you and any other families on this thread that would like to work in gestures that their child is development of to target ones they may be lacking… please see the following web address for wonderful suggestions on how to target these essential gestures.

      https://www.interveningearly.org/downloads/16×16-handout.pdf

      Next, the sensory seeking activities that you are explaining in your son begin at about a week or two post screen removal and usually disappear slowly but surely over a period of 2-6 months. What we can be extremely grateful for are that some of the self-injurious behaviors often known as (SIB for short) have gotten better such as the head banging that used to be done on the floor now being less aggressive and done for a short time on the hand. This is wonderful progress that also has a tremendous increase for him to be safe in his environment.
      He seems like a child that is seeking sensory input and you might see lots of smilies and happy expressions swinging this child in a swing, squishing them between some couch cushions in a type of game pretending to “roll dough,” family pillow fights that are gentle and do not include the head, but are bonding and provide input to the body, jumping, climbing, and possibly and gymnastic class or two and some occupational therapy may be a great resource to seek out.

  44. Hello admin, lori and entire family

    First of all i would like to thanks a ton for supporting,advising and helping unconditionally. In this battle we r together as a family.plz help me in clarifying one more doubt of mine. Has anyone got there child’s eeg done? If yes does it come normal always

    1. Hi Megha,
      I’m so glad you can join us. I personally did not have an EEG for my son nor have I worked closely with anyone who has. Hopefully Robit’s and others comments can help you. Did your doctor recommend you get an EEG?

  45. Hii…Lori mam..
    My 3.5 years old son diagnosed with mild to moderate ASD. Now under OT, special education for 4 months. At the time of diagnosis he had abnormal EEG but we don’t give any medicine for this. We removed screen time and gave probiotic, brainmax, L carleshine. We saw improvement in his eye contact, hyperactivity, better sleep and social interaction. But 2 week ago he suffered from fever again and we noticed some regression in his behaviour. What should we do for him? Should we give him medicine for abnormal EEG. Plz guide us respected team and parents.

    1. Hi Robit,
      I am not a medical doctor so the medicine the doctor is prescribing and your questions regarding the medicine related to the abnormal EEG would definitely be best related back to your doctor.
      In regards to regression during times of illness, while using this protocol can be quite common. The child and their brain are not at their best and the primal needs of the body to fight off the illness and maintain wellness come first and foremost to the body. When we don’t feel good as adults we know we struggle and have difficulty doing daily tasks let alone new ones or more difficult jobs for our livelihoods. Social activities can be quite challenging as all we want to do is usually be left alone until we feel well again. At times like this we often will see a short period of regression until the child is well and has opportunities and desires to practice the skills again. When child are tired, going through a major stage of development in another area, or a life adjustment such as moving/death of a loved one/or divorce you will tend to see regression for a short time. The main thing you will want to do is make note of when the regression started, in what areas the regression happened and then when the child is feeling better support those areas with extra attention.
      For instance, when my son was sick one time with a high fever, I had to keep him inside and we didn’t get to see others at school or play. He was about 3.75 years old. When he felt better, I made sure to keep his life balanced, but to also add extra opportunities for him to engage in peer play with others at the playground and a local restaurant with an indoor playground for young children to give him more opportunities to practice in the social areas that had regressed during the illness. I hope this helps! Please keep us posted!

  46. Dear lori frome thank u so much for appreciating my post.
    Here i would like to ask few very important questions .
    In my country Pakistan i guess some therapist and psychiatrist are still confuse that whether the patient coming to them is classic or virtual autism.
    They apply the approach of wait till six month after screen withdrawal .
    I see many restless parents who wants to know what to do in such situation. When thy dont know what is the diagnosis.
    My first question is
    Is there any special thing which makes VA different from classic.
    And second question is .
    My son after screen withdrawal seems to be closer to me.he is always coming to find me and follow me in the house with is unlike of him from screen days.
    My therapist says he can make You (me)(mother)his fixation which will be difficult for him .is it true ? Can he make a person his fixation? Or its his affiliation with me his love n bounding me ?
    Can u explain.
    He often sleep near me n pulls me arm around him post screen.
    In screen time he used to sleep alone without wanting me around him.

    My third question is after one month n two weeks screen off my son’s eye contact isnt that better to be said that its improved . But he looks at the activities as much as u want him to do. Can u explain how eye contact gets better after screen removal in VA.

    And does flicking fingers spinning hand flapping etc also seen in virtual autism.

    Thank u
    Waiting for ur reply

  47. Dear lori frome
    Can u please furthermore explain
    Why my son looks in certain cornors of room n smile and sometimes get scared . Is it sensory issue and what to do to solve these sensory issues?

  48. Hello Gull,
    I can’t explain exactly why your child is doing this as I have never worked with your son professionally or have assessed him and taken data and tried specific interventions. This is a common difference in eye gaze of children showing signs of autism, though, and I know that my own son and others’ have been remedied over time with this protocol.
    I felt with my own son and others that I have worked with in the field used this as a way of sensory seeking in their environment. My son often did it to view something at this particular angle or way to see how it would “look” at this position intently. He would also use this peripheral type of looking while spinning in circles with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. To me it was a visual stimulation that was appealing to him. I am unaware of any research on why this may be happening, but know that in all my clients cases that I have personally treated, and my son included, this dissipated with time and can be monitored taking data of the severity of the symptoms of ASD monthly with the tracking tool linked below. Again you would want to ideally see a 5-7 point score drop monthly as you are working with your child in most cases. We have to take a look at data over time here as symptoms don’t disappear overnight, but I have found this protocol in my own clinical practice to have rapid results in sensory seeking and avoidance behaviors when done over time with the parents involved and getting an OT or other professional to consult for some recommendations if needed.
    You may want to make this into a social game for now and do the same with your eyes and then place your head close to him and bring your eyes back to him and say “Boo!” each time to create a social game that will hopefully connect him to you in a spirit of fun and laughter over time as this becomes familiar to him. This technique may also help you to “join” him in his world as you bring him into yours with this opportunity to socially interact with you. A beautiful dance once again! Continue to keep us posted.
    http://www.childbrain.com/patient-education/the-asd-assessment-scale-screening-questionnaire/

    1. Thank u so much lori.your are a great help in my this difficult time .
      I salute ur efforts for helping parents all over the world.
      My son seems active after 2months of screen removal but sensory issue mostly visual are coming back and still there. The peripheral glance and smiling with it continues. His OT sessions r twice a week. I am also helping him to oveecome these sensory issues.
      He walks on toes while looking at lines on the floor and at the same time he flaps his hands while doing this. At home he has reduced doing it but in a new environment he does that. He scratch surfaces also with his finger nails. His eye contact in activities is good but over all not that much improved . He noticed birds . He has started noticing hen and cat. I brought a fish aquarium for him he noticed fish also. His speech therapist said to buy a fish aquarium for him.
      Some things seem to have come to a reduced level.
      For example
      Nail cutting fear seems resolved
      Trying new food .
      Head banging resolved
      Less hyper than before
      When he feels unsafe he pulls my arm around him .
      While sleeping if he wakes up and i say i am near u he sleeps after that hearing my voice. He follows me at home . He didnt feel attached to anyone else at the same time .may be during screen time nobody else paid attention or interaction with him.
      He seems lost in his visual sensory problem otherwise he looks at u when ur doing something to get his attention he does that play activity with u.
      I filled that scoring chart u sent me as link in ur last post.
      I get a No ASD diagnosis.

      1. Hi Gull,
        I encourage you to continue to complete the assessment once a month as you will want to see his score lowering by several points each month. This will also show you the areas where he is more severely affected and if you were to share this with your therapist or another professional that works with your son they can give you ideas of how to target the deficits in that area with him so you will begin to see improvements in those areas in the future. This data tracking has truly helped me with my own son while utilizing this protocol with him. I also continue to use this with my clients as well as those people that I speak with about therapeutic interventions. We have to feel like we are accomplishing something in the long term…which we definitely are, but the glimpses of progress along the way through the monthly monitoring show us what is improving and at what rate as well as what we need to continue to work most on to create an effective program that can be shared with others who help you with your son’s care and therapy. Blessings!

  49. Hello everyone,

    My son is 14 months old. He was very bright and advanced for his age until he turned 12 months old. Then he started regressing. He became non verbal, no longer responded to his name, no more smiles, no more eye contact, he stopped waving and clapping… He began stimming behaviors. To me it looked like autism.

    My son had been watching Cocomelon on YouTube since about the age of 6 months old.he loved it! I thought I was making him happy and at the same time buying myself a little bit of time to get housework done. If I only knew how much I was hurting him….the night I realized “I think my son has autism” something in my mind made me look up toddler + screentime + autism…and I found this article and other material by Lori Frome. And it all made so much sense!

    On November 15th 2021 we removed all screens from our son. We don’t even use our phones in front of him except to make a phone call. I cannot believe the rapid progress. He still has a long way to go, but the progress makes me feel like I am seeing a miracle before my eyes. Only 11 days later and my son is making 50% more eye contact. He is responding to his name again. He follows me from room to room, sometimes even chases me when before it was like he didnt even know I existed. He started babbling again! He started waving and clapping again! He smiles when he sees me and reaches to me to be carried. He looks to where I am pointing now. He sits and listens while I read books to him again. He even wants to cuddle with me! We still have a very long way to go, and I think since my son is so young and we came across this solution and implemented it so early we are having even more rapid results than what looks to be typical in the comments section of this article.

    I wanted to share a tip about the pointing. My son stopped understanding pointing when he regressed due to virtual autism. So after we cut screens out, I got some M&M’s (candy) and would put one on the floor when he wasn’t looking. Then I would point to the candy with my finger almost touching the candy and say “look! Look!” Very quickly my son caught on that when I point, there’s something good at the end of my finger. Now at this point the candy can be 3 feet away from the end of my finger and he will find it from my pointing!

    1. Dear @Robin, I hope you’ll forgive my term of endearment, but I am so touched and grateful to receive your post on this Thanksgiving eve! Thank you so much for sharing the story of your son. And thank goodness the young brain is so beautifully plastic and maleable to respond so quickly!! Everyone will love your M&Ms technique for understanding pointing. So clever – and delish for the little recipients! See? Your mom’s intuition is lighting your way. I can’t wait to see what Lori has to say. 😍 – Jenifer (admin)

    2. Robin,
      This is so beautiful and I hope it brings you the beautiful journey that my own son and so many other families have had for their children. I’m so very glad you found this information based on your momma’s instinct to search through the research in efforts to help your son. You, and your family, and his team are his greatest assets at this time! He sounds like he is in good hands guided by your innate wisdom as his mother!

  50. Hi LORI,

    Should we need to follow any Sugar, Casein, Gluten free diet? As I heard those foods will make kids hyper. Could you please confirm

    1. Hi Irman,
      We do not have diet recommendations included in our protocol, but I would ask your child’s pediatrician for their recommendations regarding these questions.

  51. My son, now 2.8 year old, watched tv /phone for 6 to 7 hours daily since he was 10 months old. He was diagnosed with ASD at 2.2 year old.

    After 6 months of screen withdrawal eye contact improved. But still not that much great. No response to name yet.

    He became very close to me after screen withdrawal within one month. Indicates potty by crying, going to the toilet instead of telling by word. Lot of verbal stimming reduced. But still makes squeals and infant noises.

    Walking on toes, tactile sensory issues completely stopped. Started chewing and biting food. Sleep time increased.

    Occupational theraphist said he has vestibular sensory issues. Will start his theraphy tomorrow.

    Since 6 months progress is there but very slow. How long will it take to recover from all the visual and auditory sensory issues to resolve?

    Keeps making eyes to corner, making different sounds if not occupied with any activity.

  52. Dear Lori,

    I would like to know how is your son doing now?
    Has he recovered completely?
    How many hours per day should we interact?
    Does sensory issues resolve on their own?
    Do they pick up language easily after sensory issues solved?

    My son seems to have sensory issue, he can hear things like milk, chocolate, bike, but no response to name.

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