TUESDAY, April 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Greater screen exposure and less interactive play between caregivers and children early in life is associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-like symptoms at age 2 years, according to a study published online April 20 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Karen Frankel Heffler, M.D., from the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues evaluated the association of experiential factors, including social activities and screen viewing in the first 18 months of life, as well as perinatal factors and demographic factors with ASD-like symptoms at 2 years. The analysis included data from 2,152 children participating in the National Children’s Study (Oct. 1, 2010, to Oct. 31, 2012).

The researchers found that television and/or video viewing at 12 months of age was significantly associated with greater ASD-like symptoms at 2 years of age (change, 4.2 percent) but not with ASD risk (risk prevalence rates, 8.3 versus 4.4 percent; adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.40; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.86 to 2.29). Similarly, daily parent-child play versus play with less than daily frequency was significantly associated with fewer ASD-like symptoms at 2 years of age (change, −8.9 percent) but not with ASD risk (risk prevalence rates, 6.4 versus 14 percent; aOR, 0.58; 95 percent CI, 0.31 to 1.08). High screen viewing at 18 months of age was not significantly associated with ASD-like symptoms or ASD risk at 2 years (aOR, 1.18; 95 percent CI, 0.56 to 2.49).

“This outcome is an important area of research because these factors are potentially modifiable through parental education,” the authors write.

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