But the truth is, electronic devices deserve special recognition, because they have been game-changers for families of kids with special needs. I am not talking about stuff like, oh, speech apps that enable our children to communicate. I am talking about the electronic diversions that give parents a break and some peace of mind. Forget the kids—we need these devices!
This was our life before the iPad came along:
We couldn't go to most restaurants, since Max was scared of noises, new places and crowds. Headphones sometimes helped, but not if he was just plain terrified of walking into somewhere different.
He'd melt down in airports and on planes.
He'd lose it at family events.
He barely wanted to go to kid activities.
He didn't so much enjoy leaving the house.
This was our life after the iPad came along (cue the angels singing):
Wherever we went, Max could sit and enjoy a movie or videos, with headphones on if he chose. Once he warmed up, he'd usually try eating at the restaurant/doing the activity/mingling.
And you know what? As he realized that the world out there wasn't so scary, he grew more comfortable doing stuff without his electronic security banket. He didn't get codependent on his iPad—he got confidence.
YES OF COURSE: Our kids are not Krazy-Glued to their electronic devices. We go for walks, we go to the mall, we take them to the park, to the playground, to the fire station. YES OF COURSE: Screen time for hours on end isn't good. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that entertainment media be limited to one to two hours a day for children and teens, and should ideally be "quality programming." (It also recommends that TV and other media be avoided for tots under two, which I definitely screwed up.) (When the kids are on school breaks, I also screw up the "one to two hours a day" thing.)
I am not sure whether the Tacodile scene in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2, watched ad nauseam, or YouTube videos of fire trucks zooming to fires constitute "quality programming." Hmmm.
But here's the thing: Electronic devices serve a critical purpose for parents of kids with special needs. They distract and engage our kids when they're on sensory overload and generally impossible to manage. (And if this sounds implausible to you, you do not have a child with sensory issues.) Electronic devices enable our families to do activities as families. They spare strangers from having to listen to our kids' screeches. They make our lives work. While we hope that over time our children's sensory issues and fears will dwindle, for now, we need all the resources we can get. And sometimes, we need iHelp.
BUST OUT THE iPAD!
BUST OUT THE iPHONE!
BUST OUT THE GALAXY!
BUST OUT THE NABI!
BUST OUT THE LEAPPAD!
BUST OUT THE [WHATEVER ELECTRONIC DEVICE HELPS]!
There is no shame. There is only salvation.
Thanksgiving is coming. At homes around the country, parents of kids with special needs will be calming their children—nervous about the crowd of relatives, the hustle and bustle and the disruption in their routine—with electronic devices. And for that, I'd say, a whole lot of us will be giving thanks.
I wish there were "like" buttons here!Delete
You got that right, Ellen!Delete
Preach it! Thank you for this post...takes a little of the guilt I've had away! We definitely experienced many of the same things "Before iPad vs. After iPad!"ReplyDelete
Yes, preach it! :) While my son is high-functioning on the autism spectrum, he has a real problem with traditional play. After school and weekends/vacations can be rough. I'll never forget the day his developmental pediatrician of all people said he may need more screen time than a typical kid. I start to let some of the "guilt" slip away. I have spent a LOT of time trying to get my kid to just play...thank God for some of these devices to help give us all a break!ReplyDelete
I so love that your developmental pediatrician said that.Delete
My 12 year old daughter Lily who has Down Syndrome loves her Ipod touch. It makes her like everyone else while allowing her to listen to music and play games. This is a stress reliever, entertainment and allows her to be calm on the bus ride to school.ReplyDelete
So great!!! You just gave me a good idea for Max's bus ride, maybe I'll get him an iPod as a holiday present.Delete
I have a school-issued laptop and it helps to have it so I can use it to do homework and not hog the home computer. Admittedly, I have gone on eight hour Minecraft streaks on long breaks instead of practicing my instrument. I see technology as a tool that revolutionizes worlds and shapes history. As Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, saw Egypt as the gift of the Nile, technology is the gift of the mind.ReplyDelete
What an awesome analogy! From what I hear, Minecraft is seriously addictive.Delete
Meryl Alper a doctoral student at USC (and a friend of mine) preaches similarly! Her research area is all about disabilities and technology, and she wrote a fabulous book (now available for free!) for the MacArthur Foundation called "Digital Youth with Disabilities" . Please google it to download!ReplyDelete
Thank you! Here is the link: http://dmlhub.net/sites/default/files/DigitalYouthwithDisabilities.pdfDelete
Great new common sense guidelines have just emerged from Zero to Three too see this Slate Article.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for sharing—it is so wonderful to have reality-checked guidelines.Delete
As an adult with Aspergers, I can tell you my tech is a wonderful stress buster on many levels, but also a reminder and organizer. My daughters with loved having access to tech as a great icebreaker and equalizer. I say embrace it and run with it!ReplyDelete
I am with you!!! Max doesn't use his iPad right now to organize much but he has started looking at his calendar a lot, because he is plotting a March trip to Chicago with Daddy!Delete
It all starts with high interest items like his trip or keeping track of his fire station visits! Do you know Erin Sheldon from Canada? She is amazing in how she has made the iPad work for her daughter, Maggie, and has given me some great ideas, both for my kids and myself. :-)Delete