Monday, February 5, 2007

The One-Eyed Brain Sucker

Before I had children, I always swore that I wouldn't let my kids watch a lot of television ~ the possible exception being PBS. They do have some good educational kids programming. In due time, I have had two kids; and in delicious irony, they do actually watch TV for probably 3+ hours a day (spaced out throughout the day). It is mostly PBS in the mornings; Sesame Street and Between the Lions are big hits with my kiddos. But in the afternoons, Baby Einstein videos rule.

Once A started showing resistance to reading books with me, I needed to find something to pique his interest. Simply going for walks and pointing out various things, or sitting and trying to tell him a story or talk about ~ whatever ~ just didn't work with him. But the television....ah, the TV. With its music and colors and silly characters, the TV provided just the right combination of elements to interest A. He hardly does any self-stim while he's watching his videos. Instead, he's trying to repeat the words they use and figure out the sign language. And he shows signs of having a great sense of humor ~ he cracks up at silliness all the time.

The TV is also one of the only things that can ground him if he's having a particularly high intensity freak out. At my parents' house, we made sure we had "Finding Nemo" (he loves those "peesch") and his Baby Einstein videos readily available. It would only take a minute or two to calm him down; then we could go back to whatever we were doing before.

We do tell him "no" if he's had enough TV for that moment. He will request a "moobie" from time to time, but we can generally distract him by asking about the characters on the movie jacket/case or by getting him engaged in coloring at his easel. And he will throw mini-tantrums sometimes when he doesn't get his way, but having to sit in the corner until he calms down has been a most effective strategy to curb the fits. He's a smart kid. He's figured out that he gets to come back out and play once he's quiet, so it doesn't usually take very long. A long time ago, we stopped going by the "one minute for every year of age" guideline that was posited by some group of doctors/child behaviorists. Z and I discovered that if we put A in the corner for two minutes, but he was still howling when he came out, it didn't help the situation and actually made the tantrums even worse. Just to appease anyone who is aghast out there, the longest he has ever had to sit there was about 10 minutes, and that was right when we started enforcing the new "you don't come out until you're quiet" rule. As I mentioned before, it didn't take A long to figure out how everything worked.

Am I thrilled about the TV thing? Eh. It's an effective tool at this point, so I'm not too concerned about it. But my husband and I do monitor what the kids do and don't watch. Most things are educational, but we do allow "fun stuff" like Disney movies too. A also rarely just sits there if the TV is on. He jumps and dances to the music, or plays with toys while listening and repeating object names. We do periodic assessments of what does or does not work with A, so if the TV just doesn't cut it any more, it's not a big deal to stop. (I'm not advocating prolific use of the boob tube, nor am I adamantly against its use ~ this is just what works for us and where we're at right now).

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