Helpful Parenting Resources for ASD Families

Written By Michael Burns
Category: Special Needs

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Parenting is the most important job in the world and it can be challenging to know how to manage technology for our kids, especially if your household has unique learners. 

That’s why Zift, which I co-founded along with two other dads, has partnered with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) to develop a set of helpful guidelines that is appropriate for all learners – including children on the spectrum.

As a father who has children who are unique learners on the ASD spectrum, I know the importance of having a resource that specifically addresses some of the unique issues families with children on the spectrum encounter.  

“Raising children in the age of screens and smartphones can be overwhelming for all kinds of parents, and even more so for families whose children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” – Michael Burns, Co-founder of Zift

How Digital Parenting Guidelines Can Help ASD Families

For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, there is a greater risk of technology addiction, since children with autism can be highly attracted to screen-base technology. Per Victoria Dunkley, M.D., “a brain with autism has inherent characteristics that screen time exacerbates.  In truth, these impacts occur in all of us, but children with autism can be more prone to experiencing negative effects and less able to recover from them.”

Since the ASD brain can be hyper sensitive to screens and especially prone to technology addiction, we created ASD Digital Parenting Guidelines that specifically address:

  • the various types and quality of screen time, including apps, websites and games;
  • the value of screen time limits and usage goals, as well as family contracts and digital ‘fasts’; and
  • the balancing of time online and offline for specific interests.

FOSI and Zift have also partnered on a three-part educational series specially dedicated to the needs of ASD families entitled “Digital Parenting and Your Autistic Child:

  • Part 1: Special Needs Require Special Attention
  • Part 2: Not All Screen Time is Created Equal
  • Part 3: Introducing Boundaries & Embracing Unplugging 

Managing Screen Time in ASD Households

In my household, I have four children and need to balance the needs of neurotypical children, as well as children on the spectrum, and this creates a challenge in managing screen time rules that are tailored to each child. 

As a parent, I am constantly looking for ways to manage my children’s online experience in a way that can maximize its benefits for learning, while balancing their screen time exposure.

In today’s world that has easy access to digital media 24/7, it can be difficult to determine how best to set up rules appropriate for a family’s individual needs. My hope is that by reading our guidelines and reviewing our educational series, parents will have a better understanding of their child’s digital tendencies.

As part of this educational series, we have included tools and resources that parents can customize to better manage their child’s screen time use for their children’s benefit.

About Michael Burns

Michael is a co-founder of Zift. He is a father of four young children and five tech start-ups. He has been a venture capitalist and served in the US Navy.  Michael studied engineering and finance at the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School.

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