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Aspergers and HFA Children Who Are Addicted To The Computer


My son was diagnosed with Aspergers, he talks fine, eye contact sometimes, but still in his own world. He is ten. At the age of 3 or 4 was playing video games and beating all of them from Zelda to hand held games. Good visual, but socialization not good, he has been on the computer now for a good year and a half, taught himself language C and language C++, goes on Youtube, became a spammer, writes his own programs, don't really know what they do. Lives almost his social life through it. Don't know what to do. Can't get him off, he literally cries. But so smart, but can't figure out what to do for him next. Please help.


Here are some "self-help" strategies for computer addiction:

Some Aspergers and high-functioning autistic (HFA) children develop bad habits in their computer use that cause them significant problems in their lives. The types of behavior and negative consequences are similar to those of known addictive disorders; therefore, the term Computer or Internet Addiction has come into use.

While anyone who uses a computer could be vulnerable, those Aspergers and HFA children who are lonely, shy, easily bored, or suffering from another addiction or impulse control disorder as especially vulnerable to computer abuse.

Computer abuse can result from these children using it repeatedly as their main stress reliever, instead of having a variety of ways to cope with negative events and feelings. Other misuses can include procrastination from undesirable responsibilities, distraction from being upset, and attempts to meet needs for companionship and belonging.

While discussions are ongoing about whether excessive use of the computer/Internet is an addiction, the potential problematic behaviors and effects on the users seem to be clear.

The Signs of Problematic Computer Use—

A child or teen who is “addicted” to the computer is likely to have several of the experiences and feelings on the list below. How many of them describe you?
  • When you are not on the computer, you think about it frequently and anticipate when you will use it again.
  • You develop problems in school or on the job as a result of the time spent and the type of activities accessed on the computer.
  • You feel anxious, depressed, or irritable when your computer time is shortened or interrupted.
  • You find yourself lying to your boss and family about the amount of time spent on the computer and what you do while on it.
  • You have mixed feelings of well-being and guilt while at the computer.
  • You lose track of time while on the computer.
  • You make unsuccessful efforts to quit or limit your computer use.
  • You neglect friends, family and/or responsibilities in order to be online.
  • You use the computer repeatedly as an outlet when sad, upset, or for sexual gratification.

Being “addicted” to the computer also can cause physical discomfort. Are you suffering from the following physical problems?
  • Back aches and neck aches
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (pain, numbness, and burning in your hands that can radiate up the wrists, elbows, and shoulders)
  • Dry eyes or strained vision
  • Severe headaches
  • Sleep disturbances

Do any of these stories sound familiar to you?
  • Almost all of your friends are from on-line activities and contacts.
  • You connect to the Internet and suddenly discover it is several hours later and you have not left the computer.
  • You have difficulty getting your homework done because computer games occupy a great deal of your time.
  • You spend most of your time on-line talking to friends from home, instead of making new friends at college.
  • Your friends are worried about you going on a date alone with a person known only from a chat room.
  • Your romantic partner is distraught because you have replaced your sexual relationship with Internet pornography and online sex.

Treatment must begin with recognizing that there is a problem. Overcoming denial should be followed by other treatment steps, including:
  • Assessing for other disorders like depression or anxiety that may need medical treatment.
  • Assistance in locating or forming a support group for other students who are trying to regain control over their computer use.
  • Focusing on other areas for needed skill enhancement, such as problem solving, assertiveness, social skills, overcoming shyness, and anger control.
  • Generating a behavior modification plan, such as setting a timer for usage, planning a daily schedule, keeping a log of moods when going online, matching time spent online with time spent socializing face to face and taking part in non-computer related activities.

How to Help Computer Obsessed Friends—
  • Be a good role model. Manage the computer use in your own life well.
  • Encourage them to seek professional counseling.
  • Get them involved in some non-computer related fun.
  • Introduce them to some other kids who handle their computer use sensibly.
  • Support their desire for change if they think they have a problem.
  • Talk to your friends about your concerns with their computer use.

==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Home and School


•    Anonymous said… A Beautiful Mind is an amazing movie. My son is 16, with a similar obsession. Our social skills counselor has suggested taking it away completely so that he is forces to make new choices. Yes, it comes with crying and meltdowns but about 10 says in it evens out. We do not give him the out to be anti social. His phsychiatrist asked him if he likes to swim, he said,yes but he hates the feel of the concrete under his feet or to wear "stupid" swim shoes. Well Chris, he said, to get to the water you have yo learn to cross the uncomfortable part. He gets that now. We no longer ask him to go to the park or to dinner, or other public, places. He is told hours ahead, remindes,closer to, then told to get his shoea on we are leaving in 10 minutes. He may not like it but he complies. We are mindful of outings with him and choose uncomfortable but doable activities. He has friends at school but rarely interacts with them on the weekend. The hardest part is beinhg the parent who has to force our Aspies forward in life.
•    Anonymous said… Brilliant talented boy..sit chat to him whilst he is in his computer world talk to's all social interaction. .Also you will be very surprised he is listening to all that is around him even when on it in a social place in the house?!x  The talent your boy has is amazing but I know what you worry about the social side of things ,cause as a parent it's what we worry about most. .for child to have friends be excepted join in with things they love. .and breaks your heart to watch them not being able to (my son recently at a football party frown emoticon..)joined in at the end to eat some food on his own while everyone had finished and gone back out to play..!!.:(breaks me hey still love him keep trying's all we can do x ♡
•    Anonymous said… Can you please explain ppd-nos?
•    Anonymous said… find a great speech pathologist to work with him on social skills practice and learning of mechanics of social norms. also- it's helped us to limit video game time to a specific time each day- he knows ahead of time what the expecation is (when he can play and how long) and much like sleep training babies it's hard and tough at first, but setting limits does work. Maybe he can earn extra video game time for doing chores or going to speech/ playing a turn taking game with you. rewards to motivate help a lot!
•    Anonymous said… Get in to his world with him and even though you might not enjoy it he will love you for it , ( please try to show you are enjoying it , even if he tells you u you suck at it ) when he feels safe with you being in it , you can then try to get him to do things with you, he will feel safe to do that then because he trusts you For them it's a safe world in these games because they are in control the real world frustrates them as they have no control over it its to much ... Good luck
•    Anonymous said… He's identical to my son but we played to his strengths and now as an adult he makes a living from coding and computers plus has become a unique and highly loved young man. Don't give up they're worth the effort!
•    Anonymous said… I bought mine a pony - only reason he will leave the house or minecraft. Rides him then walks straight back home lol. He has started doing fire brigade and I love that he is loving it, found something he's good at because it's pyhsical but does'n require much coordination
•    Anonymous said… I'm sure she's not complaining. I bet she knows that socialization and real life can't be entirely via the computer. And the people in the real world can't all join him in his world. It's pretty hard to know how to break out of that. I don't know him, so I don't know if there are any other interests he has that can be capitalized on. Hoping another person can share what they have found to be helpful. So...following...the article is good too...
•    Anonymous said… keep trying smile emoticon Although he possibly will work for microsoft I beleive it's our job to offer them a balanced childhood and the opportunity to try new things - good luck
•    Anonymous said… Look for computer group or activites. Look for day camps. Try and find out if there is something more he wants to learn. Need to find other kids his age that are into it!
•    Anonymous said… Lots of great advice in this stream... You parents are doing an awesome job!!
•    Anonymous said… microsoft... they have been hiring autistic people from the beginning
•    Anonymous said… my god son was same he left school at 16y.hes in bed withddepression now not doing a thing not wanting anything...not wanting to sit on his computer anymore.... he was same.... too bad his mum didnt stop it when she could
•    Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed with Asperger's at 8 (he is now 12 and in middle school) and, like your son, is pretty brilliant with computers. He also loves engineering and enjoys the circuitry side of them. Anyway, here is the deal we made with him. "Fun" computer time is weekend/holidays only, and weekdays the computer is for school only. Each year he has to try something new that the school offers or that we can get him into. It can be brand new or a continuation of something that he has connected with from prior years. Last year he decided to give instrumental music a try, and decided to take beginning strings with the Violin. That was in 5th grade. Turns out, he liked that one and has continued it. He's now in his second year and has joined the school orchestra. Studies show that playing a musical instrument can improve cognitive development and create new neural connections. We've seen some changes since he picked up that beautiful instrument, and he's pretty good at it, since music is so mathematic. We even use a computer program, SmartMusic, to support his learning. It's a natural fit for his learning methodologies. His new thing this year was to join the Rocket Club at his school, sponsored by the Technology teacher, which meets every Thursday. They build engineering projects and follow what NASA and MarsOne are doing. So, my very longwinded point here is this .... if you look hard enough, you can find activities that both appeal to him and socialize him. Think outside the box, and be firm about that computer time. Just because he's good at it, doesn't mean he should spend all of his time doing it. Help him to become a bit more well-rounded while you have him at home. It will benefit him later.
•    Anonymous said… This describes my 12 yr old, and I believe God has a reason and a plan for him. How do you take away the only thing that seems to make him feel normal and happy? I can't do it. My son has a therapist, but the truth is, he is doing what feels natural to him. I pray a lot and trust he will be a good adult, and he will
•    Anonymous said… Try to find a high school or college level computer programming class or group that he can join. If he's around other people that share his interest, it will be easier for him to socialize. Right now he is only finding those people online.
•    Anonymous said… Wartch A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG MIND movie. Might make you feel better.
•    Anonymous said… With my sedentary life I gained a lot in recent years and lost all my self esteem, but now in 2015 out of my comfort zone and lost weight 28 pounds on a diet that site here ROG9 .COM
•    Anonymous said… Wow, super smart boy, with an interest that he can turn into a career, and that gives him a social life, and you're complaining?! Maybe join him in his world, get him to teach you programming? Could lead to something great.
•    Anonymous said… You are not alone - there are so many of us with kids who have varying levels of ASD. Do whatever you can in terms of therapy that is available- THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU AS HIS PARENT. What is good for one family, is not acceptable for another. The most important thing is that he must be happy - anxiety is a serious and debilitating factor in ASD.

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Anonymous said...

Lewis Holder I am the same I love computers since I first came in contact with them. I hope to do a Computer Science degree after I finish college
48 minutes ago · Like
Greg Dickson same here, ours is almost 13 and he's stuck on video games and anime most of the time. He's actually become a game addict and we're trying to limit his time on them

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Fox Avila This is my son too.
2 hours ago · Like
Kim Weber Langner Yes, my 13 year old is the same. When your boys make conversation with you, is it typically only about games, tv or movies?
3 minutes ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Jo Schween Yep, same here with my 7 year old already. I restrict his access to computers, consoles and TV. But still he is obsessed. Even though he doesnt actually have much time on computers he almost instinctively knows how to use them, and understands concepts extremely quickly that are bewildering to most adults i know.
26 minutes ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Please use the "obsession" positively. Our son was an "Excessive" gamer. Use a video game format, or let him/her help you create one, for other subjects & areas of concern. They need their own worlds to develop their abilities.

Anonymous said...

Any advice for a Aspie obssessing with screen time? My 9 year has seemingly become a screen addict in the past two months. He will watch anything on a screen. If the TV is on he will watch whatever- the news, commericals, of course his shows, anything. When we turn the TV off he ask to get on the computer. If he doesn't get on the computer he will sneak and take our cellphones that has TV on it and goes and hide to watch it. We have small meltdowns when we the TV is turned off or if we completely restrict it. We fight to get daily homework done because he doesn't want to do anything but watch TV or be on the computer.

Anonymous said...

Hello if your reading this my name is Thomas I have Aspergers and from the age of about 10 I've been obsessed with computers and aircraft. my dream job is to become a Pilot, Not to brag but the Obsession with these has taught me a lot, that would benefit for my future career, I now know hexadecimal code and Most of buttons in a cockpit of an aircraft, but having Aspergers has helped me rather than Been a sin. I'm 16 now and going on to study aero nautical engineering, So Parents Embrace what your child has, I'm not saying it's a Good Thing but most people with Aspergers are extremely quick learners at least I was,
Regards Thomas

Anonymous said...

My 15 year old son with Asperger's has suffered with anxiety, G/I complaints (including esophageal ulcers), headaches, nosebleeds, low energy and sleep disorders (recently diagnosed w/ sleep apnea and peripheral leg movement disorder). He is very bright with a gifted IQ but has great difficulty getting homework done. This is partly because of his issues w/ fatigue-but also, because he is addicted to his computer. Sometimes it's video games (like Minecraft), but other times it's just watching YouTube videos on whatever his obsession is (debates about religion has been a current one). I'm having a terrible time keeping him moving along with homework in a timely fashion. He attends a private, Catholic college prep HS. I know that by the time the school day is over, he is wiped out and needs to "chill", but the precious hours tick away. Why does such a smart kid struggle so with getting through homework that is not too difficult for him?

April Friedman said...

If the time spent on the activity is too much and it seems to be trending toward an obsession, then as the parent, limits need to be set. We limit screen time (gaming) to 30 min per day on school days if behavior was good at school. You will have to provide other options for the time leftover. Karate was recommended to us for our almost 10 yr old. There are social groups (Meet that might work. Walks in the neighborhood if approp. After school clubs either on campus or through your parks and rec dept. Library time. When my son was off the games completely, he started a notebook with detailed written plans for a world in Minecraft. Art classes in the past have given him motivation and confidence to draw using the internet. There are lots of drawing for kids videos. What do you like to do? Share it with him. Cooking is fun for my son too! Good luck!

Eva said...

I'm aware you posted several years ago, I still hope this question will reach you.
My son is a little bit younger than yours, but they seem to be very similar.
I'm very interested in finding out if your son ever changed? Was he able, or willing to fight his addiction? Is he attending college now? And what was the outcome to your religious debates?
Our sons seem to be so similar, I could have posted this.
I really hope I'm going to hear back from you! :)

Unknown said...

My son also has mild autism, pdd/nos. He too was addicted to computers and video games, yet I allowed it since he does other activities after school and does 10 hours a week ABA therapy. But he literally spent 2-3 hours a day playing video games. I found that he is severely anxious (which most children on the spectrum are) and the only time he feels normal, and anxiety free is on the gaming system. When he was 14 I noticed that he not only was on the computer and gaming systems constantly, but he knew EVERYTHING about the systems and even began making his own video gaming software. He was accepted in the pre engineering program at his high school and when he graduates he's been accepted to MIT. Our children are brilliant. And if they feel they aren't accepted in our world allow them to be in their own and where they are happy. You never know what can become of it. I am so proud to be the mother of a video game addicted autistic son!

Stub said...

My 19 y/o son has aspergers. He is addicted to his gadgets, he has no time management skills, cannot prioritize tasks, does not seems to grasp the concepts of responsibility and obligations. He is a smart kid who could go far however he won't apply himself- he would rather spend time on gadgets. If we dare remove the gadgets he becomes verbally and physically aggressive. He struggles to complete a simple pamphlet round - something that should take under two hours takes six hours. My wife and I just can't reason with him - in goes in one ear and out the other. He either does not care or cannot comprehend the result of his inaction. We are literally getting to our wits end. We have two other younger children in the family. Our family is under severe stress. We know if we remove the gadgets he will either become violent and/or destroy anything he can get his hands on.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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