Folks, the time has come to completely turn off the TV for our youngest son. Although his TV viewership has been extremely limited, and posed a huge moral dilemma for us, he didn't start watching until well after he turned two. But now that he is in a Waldorf preschool program, I have a deep desire to abide by the school's strict no-media policy. Deep in my heart I've always known that what little TV he watched was doing him more harm than good. An excellent article by Thomas Poplawski, "Taming the Media Monster," helped seal my conviction to entirely ban TV from my young son's life until at least the age of ten-- if I can help it. And I know it won't be easy, but I also know it's worthwhile.
So a few days ago, I covered the TV with an old crib sheet of his and I told my 4-year-old that the TV was going to sleep for a long time, and I packed away all his DVDs out of sight (except for yoga). He seemed to get it right away. As the days passed, he asked to watch a show only on two occasions, and simply telling him that the set was asleep was enough to move him on to another activity. From observing him in the last few days and from past times when he had gone on a "TV diet," I am convinced that TV is probably one of the most damaging things we can do to our young kids. There is a stark contrast between my son's behavior, attitude, and mood when he has been exposed to media, and when he's not. Although he is obviously zoned-out and well-behaved WHILE he is watching, TV definitely brings out a hint of "autistiky" ADHD type behaviors in him as soon as it's turned off.
In a book I'm currently reading, Back To Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, the author Enrico Gnaulati says that most children (especially boys) are born with a predisposition to autism or ADHD--some more than others, and to different degrees. I fully agree, as I've witnessed this in my own son and in other 'normal' children I've known and worked with. As to what causes full-blown autism, the jury is still out on that one.
I want to talk a little more about autism because it's a subject that has deeply interested and mystified me since I was working closely with a group of autistic kids from 2006-2008 when I was "Language Acquisition Specialist" at a public elementary school. It was an education for me to watch their professionally trained teachers work with them, and I got an insider's view on how these kids function and how they learn. In investigating this topic over the past few years, I found several theories about what causes autism. I investigated all the common explanations. Is it vaccines? Is it genetic? Is it older parents? Birth trauma? Early umbilical cord clamping? There were no hard answers to be found.
Every single theory had much evidence to support it, but it could never stand alone exclusively because none of the possible causes can singly be applied to all cases of autism. You will find some unvaccinated autistic children out there, and you will find some who had perfectly natural births, etc. So what explains it? There are conflicting opinions about this among professionals, my friends, and former colleagues alike.
Through everything I have seen and read for myself, I've personally concluded that Autism is a result of a perfect storm of events, as described by this brave mother of an autistic child who is convinced enough to write "How I Gave My Son Autism" on the Thinking Moms' Revolution site. This is a courageous and scary article in which she blames her son's autism on a combination of "triggers" she might have pulled while pregnant, birthing, or nursing. Her particular "perfect storm" consisted of:
1. Ultra sounds while pregnant
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup in the diet
3) Lortab/Acetaminophen while pregnant3. Taking the drug Lortab while pregnant
4. The drug Pitocin during childbirth
5. C-section and the drugs/recovery this major surgery involves
6. Antibiotics while breast-feeding
8. Flouride poisoning
9. Giving Acetaminophen to the child
Luckily, I've suspected all these things for a while now and I've stayed away from this entire list of possible triggers in order to protect my son, to the best of my knowledge, from this modern epidemic. We also let him spend lots of time outdoors and we give him extra doses of vitamin D3 because a deficiency in this hormone has also been linked to autism.
As I see it, what connects all these things is that they are all interferences and interruptions in the mental, physical, and/or emotional processes of human development. Too much and too many of such "interruptions" with our biology and natural environments might result in some of us reaching a certain limit in capacity causing our sensory system to ultimately malfunction as we withdraw into the world of autism.
But what about TV?
In seeing how TV affects children, I started to think, what if exposing children to TV and media beginning at infancy could also be one of the culprits in triggering autism? As I did my research to try to answer this question or to see if it has even been asked, I found that there actually are solid theories and studies looking into the possibility that autism might also be triggered by excessive TV exposure at infancy. In Amish communities, by the way, the incidence of ADHD and autism are almost nil. It's worth noting that these communities neither vaccinate their children nor watch TV in their homes. For the most obvious reasons, nobody in the mainstream media is talking about this burning question about media exposure in any intellectual manner.
In the US, it has been clearly established that the sharp rise in rates of autism happened at the same time when cable television and children's programming were introduced. Since the late 80s and early 90s, parents have been bombarded with baby and child educational products promising geniuses, which turn out to be unscientific scams like the Baby Einstein products. Also, let it be noted that the rates of autism are highest in states with the highest amount of cable TV viewing (rainy states such as Washington, Oregon and California top the list). Even the American Academy of Pediatrics admits that media exposure causes attention problems in children. Although the AAP strictly cautions against exposing young children to TV, you won't find them telling us how terrible the consequences might be, nor will you find them banning -or even speaking out against- children's TV programming that specifically targets infants under 2.
Nobody can say for sure how autism happens exactly, but my fine-tuned maternal instincts and average observation skills tell me that TV certainly contributes to MY own son's ADHD/autistic-type behaviors (repetitiveness, communication difficulty, transition tantrums, extreme restlessness). Luckily he hasn't been exposed for very long, and it's a good thing we're stopping it sooner than later.
I'm glad that the Waldorf schools take this no-media commitment seriously. It makes perfect sense. In the past few days alone, my son's imaginative play and creativity have occupied much more of his time. He has rediscovered his toys and has come up with new ways of combining them to build new concepts. He's drawing more, looking at more books, and he's much more focused on activities and in his communication. He's mostly in a harmonious mood, and we're already seeing a dramatic decrease in his resistant responses. It's absolutely crazy! Please continue to collectively knock on wood.
Turn off the TV, and transform your child.
Over and out...
3) Lortab/Acetaminophen while pregnant
3) Lortab/Acetaminophen while pregnant