Autism and Baby Einstein
Baby Einstein videos have been under fire for the last few years. Where once they were considered educational to children, they are now being said to cause Autism (yes you read that right). Disney (who now owns baby Einstein) even offered a refund to people who wanted it.
In a quote from Psychology Today regarding this video series, "research has found that, although infants become engrossed in these videos, they offer no intellectual benefit"
And on a blog called "Dr. Clark's Brain Based Blog", this Dr. talks about how any screen media is harmful to children, especially children with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and how they should be avoided at all costs. He says it entrances them, not engages them.
As a mother of an autistic son, who, as a baby/toddler/pre-schooler was non-verbal, troubled, and difficult to live with, I have to disagree with both of these ideas.
Having something we could count on to help keep Caleb grounded when we were entering into "freak out" territory (especially during the Christmas season, and visiting so many people), was priceless. A child with Autism has a life that is constant stress, and to find something that clearly helps him to relax, sit and smile, and even (gasp!) zone out a little is, in my opinion, worth it's weight in gold.
Caleb first watched "Baby McDonald", a Baby Einstein video about farming, at around 12 months, and he was enthralled. But, more than that, he was excited! He spent a lot of time with me outside teaching horseback riding lessons, and he was learning the words to all the things he was seeing, only in a fun, relaxed way.
Caleb can recite poetry from Shakespeare, Tennesee Williams, and Robert Frost (among others) because of the videos (and reinforcement from the books). He hears and recognizes classical music from composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Grieg, Mozart, and many others. All from watching the videos. No intellectual benefits? I'm no researcher for Psychology Today, but I'd say those things are intellectually beneficial.
There is a catch though....he watched them, in large part, with us.
The Baby Einstein videos were meant to be used "as an interactive tool" (as creator, former teacher, and stay-at-home Mom) Julie Aigner-Clark says in the opening of some of the older videos. As a parent, we are given our children to raise the best we can. Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, in all ways. And sometimes (aka-most times!), that requires some help. If a video is something that I can use as an "interactive tool" (interactive meaning I am also involved, and interacting), than I will use it. Did I use it as a child-minder sometimes? Yup, I sure did! Momma needed a shower once in a while!
The idea that an extremely complex disorder like Autism can be caused by a child's video is as ridiculous as when they first thought Autism was caused by "refrigerator mothers" (mom's who appeared cold towards their child). P.S. What they found in later years was that Mothers appeared cold because they didn't know how to be loving to a child who couldn't let them into their world. Perhaps in a few years some brilliant scientists will discover that, instead of Baby Einstein causing Autism, kids who already had it just liked the videos because they are not fast-paced, have pleasant music, a calming narrative, and structured lessons. Just a thought.
Being a parent requires some sense, and if you feel something your child does is harmful to them, work on stopping it. But if something that your child clearly loves and is learning from is suddenly under attack for being "bad" in some way....use your sense. Don't just jump on the bandwagon mindlessly. Evaluate your situation, educate yourself, and watch your child.
Most of all, don't let it make you feel guilty. When people tell me (and they still do), "Oh, your son liked Baby Einstein? Did you know they found out it causes Autism?", I could feel guilty. "What? I caused my son's Autism that now effects every single thing he does, at every single moment of the day, and will effect him for the rest of his life? Not to mention the impact it has had on our whole family! I did that? With a video?" I could feel guilty and stay up at night wondering if I "gave" Caleb his Autism because I let him watch Baby Einstein as a young, impressionable boy...but I won't.
Don't let other people who don't know you, or your child, or your situation tell you what you caused, or how you caused it. Trust yourself as a parent, and fix it, or move on.
Caleb no longer watches Baby Einstein. Why? Because he's nine years old, and that would be ridiculous! It was meant for a season in his life, and I would consider it's worth in regard to reducing his stress, and educating him, invaluable. I wouldn't trade the times he watched it for anything. Not even a refund.
11/20/2013 09:02:30 pm
Love your posts Amy. And your cat comment is priceless ;-)
11/20/2013 10:44:15 pm
Thanks! And it's funny, but so true about cats though, isn't it! They don't always liked to be touched, are sensitive to smells, & noises. Haha, wow, the more I think about it, the more I think cats may be on the spectrum! ;)
11/20/2013 09:06:50 pm
Well said Amy-Lyn! You are a great Mom!
11/20/2013 10:51:58 pm
Thanks Nadine. Raising kids with Autism takes a lot of navigating, and figuring out what works for the family, even if it means the whole family can recite Monsters Inc by heart! Haha! It's about living life, and a good one, for the family, and for our kids with Autism. You guys are great parents, and we look up to you and your strength! xo
4/15/2016 07:24:22 pm
I completely agree! Baby Einstein and another video called Baby Babble were the key to my 13 year old son's language, ten years ago. No guilt from me! My youngest daughter was just diagnosed at age 2 and you can bet we will have another few years of high rotation Baby Einstein.
4/18/2016 08:58:10 am
Have fun through another few years of Baby Einstein! I am quite glad to be rid of them now, but I am just still so thankful for them and everything they taught Caleb!
7/2/2016 04:35:03 pm
Thank you for saying this! My child (with ASD) also enjoyed the videos for a season of her life too, and I must say, she learned much as a result of it. It helped me introduce everything from color and counting to the alphabet and naming things. It helped me. To this day, she remembers the music from the videos and we play those classics sometimes because of the positive affect it seems to have... for all of us, actually. Perhaps too much television in general was not such a great idea before a certain age, we can naturally suspect, but electronics are certainly a rapidly growing part of our "evolution". This generation of kids are the FIRST ONES growing up surrounded first by cell phones and a few more channels, to iPads, smart phones, and 50K channels and DVRs... Hm... (?) Still, lets not forget all the crap they put in the food and vaccines and water now. I could go on, but I don't have the attention span or energy for that. Oh, wait, maybe I should blame all that on the Sesame Street I watched? As easily as I could call BS on Baby Einstein causing ASD, I could claim that the kids are responding perfectly to the fact that so many parents are too busy being riveted to their own electronics Facebooking, Chiving, blogging, tweeting, OMG.... instead of paying attention to their kid! Food for thought. Heck, I just told my daughter to wait a minute I'm typing and can't answer and type at the same time! Bad mom! Gotta go! We are getting ready to snuggle on the couch and watch some fun educational tv. We bond and we learn, and snuggle.
4/22/2021 03:25:48 am
Hi! As a mom of a daughter recently diagnosed with autism... I have always struggled with whether i caused my daughter to be so because i wasnt engaging enough (I was battling depression) or that I let her watch TV at a young age. But your blog has helped me relieve that guilt.... thank you so much
Amy-Lyn M Van Londersele
5/7/2021 05:11:47 am
Hi there! I'm so glad you found something to alleviate your guilt. Mom guilt is pretty common, but I think Mom guilt is 10x worse for those of us raising kids with autism. We are here to help each other, and I'm so glad I was able to do that for you!
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Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
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