The first time I had read this study I found myself nodding. “Yes! We live in Western Washington! It rains 300 days a year here!” The TV gave my son autism!
|Casey and the TV|
I used to joke that Baby Einstein was the cause and the cure to Casey’s autism. It was easy to associate the compiled videos of various stims that is the Baby Einstein video series with the spinning and other stims Casey did in the short periods of time when he wasn’t watching one of the videos. I used to give myself unending grief over the amount of time Casey watched TV. By the time Casey was 21 months old, he was already a middle child. I was BUSY. I was stressed. Casey screamed for hours and hours a day. But he didn’t scream when the TV was on. So I turned it on.
I put him in Early Intervention, which consisted of a 3-hour-a-day preschool along with an hour of speech and occupational therapy a week. In addition to this, we put Casey into private speech therapy twice a week. He made progress in all of these things, but then this crazy thing started happening.
Our private speech therapist at the time was phenomenal. I think she provided the pathway for him to start talking, but the words he used, and continues to use, come MOSTLY from things he’s learned from watching TV. There was something magical about the repetition of the sounds coming from an object rather than a person. People made Casey nervous. It was hard for him to get past that anxiety to actually learn what they were teaching.
But the TV was neutral. It didn’t force him to look him in the eyes, it was predictable (especially after he’d seen the show five million times), it was fast-paced, and it kept his attention.
By the time Casey was 3, you could say, “The A says…” and he’d say “ah”, and could do this for the entire alphabet. This was before he was even calling me “Mom” and I had spent countless hours pointing his finger at me and saying “Mom, mom, mom.” (Maybe if I had just put it on a video…). From there, his speech came in spurts, and it was almost entirely verbatim from various shows he had watched.
It has been FASCINATING. He’s had this remarkable ability to use the speech he was “scripting” from the shows he watched into regular conversations. He just chose bits and pieces from different shows and used that to speak…correctly. He still uses it. He’s found his voice through the voices of Spongebob, The Little Einsteins, Phineas and Ferb, and lately the characters on BrainPop. Casey has an amazing sense of humor, too. He’s able to relate with people at school because he’s seen it played out in front of him on TV. He’s been able to figure out how to tell jokes to make people laugh, and seen consequences of actions in a format where the consequence was concrete and immediate. It’s not that way in real life.
I’m not saying to turn the TV on and hope it cures your kids’ autism. It doesn’t cure autism. What I am saying is to stop giving yourself grief over the amount of time your child watches TV. I wish I could have known the good it would do in Casey’s life. I would have spent much less time crying over what a bad mother I was and realize that I was doing something superfantastic for him.