Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder which encompasses deficits in social communication and interactions, as well as repetitive and restrictive behaviour.

QScience.com, the open-access platform of HBKU Press online, sheds light on the correlations with and the prevalence of Autism through multiple studies published from the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference Proceedings. These studies, together with other relevant articles, are collected into a new feature. Dr Alwaleed Alkhaja, Senior Editor at HBKU Press, explains that the collection includes many of the innovative sources found on QScience.com.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that the global median rate for Autism prevalence is approximately 62 per 10,000 (2014). Thus, in a study titled The use of Arabic version of Social Communication Questionnaires (SCQ) in School Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Qatar,’ researchers Fouad Alshaban and Eric Fombonne (from Hamad Bin Khalifa University and Oregon Health and Science University) examined the prevalence rate of ASD in children between the ages of five and 12 years old.

Various diagnostic surveys were used to detect levels of ASD in children attending local primary schools. Results showed that out of the total population surveyed, a significant number of children show significant levels of ASD, demonstrating presence of Autistic population in Qatar. The findings of this study provide insight which can be used to improve planning for health care facilities needed to detect and manage this disorder.

In another study titled, Neuroscience and Interior Architecture: Impact on Autism,’ Mohamed Cherif Amor (from Virginia Commonwealth University-Qatar) and Ahmed Elsotouhy (a neurologist at Hamad General Hospital) used an experimental design with two aims: first, to compare behavioural and neural responses of autistic subjects exposed to three types of fluorescent lighting, and second, to investigate the impact of different colour temperatures on brain regions that have minimal neural activity for people with Autism.

The results stress how fluorescent lighting among indoor environmental variables play a critical role in nurturing daily activities for people with normal brains, but this is not the case for those with different brain functions. Autistic subjects are more distracted under fluorescent lighting, as the lighting generates agitation, hyperactivity, stress, and weaker cognitive skills – this consequently contributes to negative health and performance.

In another 2016 study,Kids Channels Cause of Autism Spectrum and Leaving the Child Less than Two Years for Television is a Crime,’ Mohammad Zaki Hassan emphasises the importance of early childhood learning through repetition and interactions. Children who watch television are automatically exposed to repeating sounds, shapes, colours, and sizes. This exposition lays the foundation for how a child’s senses are developed.

So, when a child watches TV in his or her early years, the colours, sizes, shapes, and speed of what is shown on TV become engrained in their memory. The child becomes accustomed to the two-dimensional world, prompting lack of eye contact.

With regards to hearing, a child who watches excessive amount of TV will take in limited auditory intensities, sizes, levels, sounds, and directions. The channels’ repetition of songs and sounds will subconsciously cause the children to store these sounds in their auditory memories, and this inhibits space for other sounds to be remembered, even the voices of their own parents. Speech also is weakened, because the inevitable lack of human interaction stunts their language acquisition skills. Since repetition is the best indicator of learning, if a child’s main source of repetition is the TV, little room is left to grasp anything else.

Visit qscience.com to read more about the study on Autism.