I’m on the phone earlier talking to someone who needs to chat something through with me and ‘H’ is pacing back and forth in front of me. This is quite deliberate, she wants me to stop or look up from the conversation to give her what she wants. I quite deliberately don’t. The pacing increases and the occasional ‘pardon’ is loudly thrown in knowing full well that I was not addressing her but continuing with the phone. After three minutes the pacing increases further and a loud ‘Can I?’ is uttered before I place a finger in one ear.
She then gives up …. For one minute.
There she is again pacing up and down this time with some heavier breathing. My call comes to an end and she literally pukes out the words ‘Can I have screen time?’ whilst staring at the clock as she agonises over any seconds that even my answer will take on the overall loss between now and dinner. I enquire, in a rather annoyed state, as to why this request deserved the tension that she had provided as a performance in front of me. She stared and shrugged as she does. After a short talk about what were real priorities in life she sprinted into the front room where she enjoyed the nemesis of all parents, the Xbox.
There is no doubt that this one track mind is synonymous with ‘H’s disability but there is little difference between her obsession and our sons with screen, so I don’t think we can put it down to her autism entirely. That said the issue is not so much about her want of the TV but more the way that a one track mind can affect you as a parent. Screens come above days out, cycling, exercise, board games, socialising and conversation – to name but a few. It can drive you wild where you see all the good things in life being put aside for the vacant stare that is associated to endless youtube videos.
We do of course limit this time and promote other activities which at times do produce interest from ‘H’ however it is amazing what a pull the internet and video world bring. It has been said that sugar is children’s equivalent of alcohol however screens must be the nicotine to accompany it. We have this battle and do not expect quick results, we are after all, fighting 11 previous years of this being a way of life. We even took her in to our home with an American accent such was her appetite for TV so it is going to be a slog and one in which I need to have better humour in.
I find it is sometimes difficult to model the appropriate amount of screen time myself. Even as you read this I’m staring at a laptop screen and to anyone (including my kids) it looks no different to when I watched Sherlock last night. It is a quandary and a challenge in our age to demonstrate healthy balance with this stuff in a modern age.
I am interested however as to whether this is a bridge that you have made it over? Apart from limiting time have you ever steered a child into better pursuits or lit their brain up in more creative ways. I guess I’m not the only one asking this question, so we would love to hear from you! In the meantime I will try and keep trying ideas because slowly but surely she is liking other fun, just not as fast as I’d like it!…….
Therapeutic Foster carer