This month's topic over at Best of the Best SOS for Parents is on the effect that media (TV, computers, etc) has on special needs kids. I am going to go out on a limb and say that I think the effects might be... oh, what is the word???.... oh, yeah, BAD. And I am going to guess that many of the other fabulous bloggers will either spend time writing about either how evil TV/Computers are OR how overwhelmingly guilty they feel for allowing their children to watch/play said media.
And they would be right. TV is evil. It is passive and minimally social. It is often violent. It is very repetitive, simplistic, and requires very little use of imagination. All kinds of (poorly designed) studies show that letting your kid watch TV is like feeding them lead-paint and mercury-filled tuna with a BPA-infused glass of red-dye-#2 Kool-aid spiked with vodka. I am actually surprised child-protective services isn't called. And I feel very guilty about letting J-man watch TV or play on the IPad. On the tally sheet of "how I fail as a parent", TV watching is #1 with a bullet.
So, having said that... allow me to spend just a few moments to defend media for special needs kids.
(and oh boy, does it ever need a defense!)
Letting J-man watch TV allows me to not go ape-shit insane.
Parenting a special needs kid is not for the weak. The analogy of "it is a marathon, not a sprint" comes to mind. And TV is like the porta-potty along the way... Gross, but a necessary evil. While J-man watches Little Einsteins, I get to do exciting things like dishes. Or laundry. Or pee.
The repetitive nature of TV does actually teach J-man something.
When J-man floored us with his knowledge of the alphabet, it wasn't because we didn't think he could learn it. It was because we never taught it to him. In our world, we had bigger fish to fry. So where did he learn it?? I am guessing Sesame Street. Maybe SuperWhy. Now, of course, knowing the letters and using them to create words are two entirely different things.... but hey, that is one thing off my list!
Also, watching the same shows over and over and over and over again allows J-man to hear words being used in the same context with the same reference point. The difference between TV and flashcards might only be in the entertainment value.
TV can be a medium through which we engage each other.
A few months ago, Mary Camarata from the Vanderbilt Late Talker Foundation saw our video of J-man watching Aladdin with Big Daddy:
She LOVED it, and actually used it in a lecture series about media. And yes, she thinks media is evil too. BUT, she noted that in the case of this video, we were using the context of the show to create opportunities to engage J-man, and though this engagement he went from single sounds to repeating 3-word utterances (unheard of for him at that time). Her point was that sometimes media can be used as a springboard to engagement and discussion, but that it requires an active thought by us parents to make that happen. But it can be an entry point into their world.
Other media, like the all-holy IPad, provide a ton of different cause-and-effect learning opportunities.
Shannon Des Roches Rosa from Squidalicious has numerous articles touting the benefits of the IPad for children with disabilities (like her son Leo). Check her out! What little I can add is that the IPad is huge reinforcer for J-man, and an activity that we can engage in together. Let the bribing commence!
So there you have it. A few small points of defense for media . Now you will have to excuse me, J-man and I have a date to watch Blue's Clues for the 100th time. I wonder if Steve will wear that sexy striped shirt again?