My little boy Bubba has had an extended stay in hospital. He is autistic and as a result it is nearly impossible to keep him entertained. I have tried different types of techniques, toys, books, colouring and so on. The main setback is that as a result of his autistic constraints, he does not really understand how to engage in the activities. Where he pays attention, it is just fleeting. The truth is that the activities tend to upset him, ultimately defeating the main reason for play.
However, cause and effect toys are the only ones he tends to play with. These cause and effect toys are mainly toys that appear to respond to his touch. He spends hours pressing noisy toys and basically driving everyone crazy with the repetitive sounds (the joys of having a musically autistic son!)
Well recently he took the noise to another level. He began to show a preference for toys with flat batteries. So the music emanating from the toys he pressed either screeched or drawled. Some went woozy towards the end. I remember listening to one toy play “Mary had a…Mary had a…Mary had a…” for hours on end until i could hear that half nursery rhyme in my dreams. The worst part was that my boy got even more upset when i changed the batteries to fix the problem. He just was not interested in Mary’s little lamb with the fleece white as snow part. As far as he was concerned the broken (about to give up the ghost battery) remix was best.
We let him have his way while we all bore the brunt of the “latest remix” in our dreams.
So now it is safe to say that I have had to succumb to “good old technology” to rescue us all. I bought him a good old tablet! I like to think that I had no other choice and this was certainly my last resort. He had rejected every toy before the tablet. He declined every possible substitute. It was tablet to the rescue or nothing!
There was a loud cheer as soon as we all realised that it seemed to be love at first sight for Bubba and the tablet. Honestly, the moment needed a kind of christening to seal it. The best part was that there was no risk of any screechy, woozy or annoying repetitive sounds. So bless him, he is now so entertained. I have since discarded the screechy toy for fear of a relapse to old ways.
I have bookmarked a nursery rhyme channel on it so now he has non-stop fun as he listens to track after track. His repetitive nature is still at play on the tablet. However, the sounds are quite jolly, bearable and have the added bonus of non-screechiness. There is still some drama when we take the tablet away but that is quite normal for him.
The tablet is now providing lots of learning opportunities for him through music, more movement and even verbal attempts as he hums along. He listens to channels that encourage lots of early learning for example alphabet songs, numbers songs, object songs, countries songs, days of the week songs and any song you can think of. We no longer worry about him getting bored. Since being on this admission with lots of pain and entrapment in his cot, the tablet has become a close companion. It even helps to keep him distracted during scans, pain episodes, unpleasant moments with needles and lots more.
For a child with a high degree of autism who is non-verbal and always lost in his own world, the tablet creates an opportunity to connect with him. Since he now gets entertained differently mainly through music, I can sing along. Sometimes he makes eye-contact, smiles and appears to enjoy spending time dancing or humming along with me. These moments are very well treasured because he seldom connects in this way. I am very excited that I made this wise investment that seems to be opening up ways to get through to Bubba.
I know I had my reservations about the whole technology thing for children right from the start. However, I am learning not to lose sight of the advantages as well. I think the key thing is to:
- Monitor what you download on the tablet.
- Make sure you are always aware of what content your child can access
- Ensure that it is always used with adult supervision.
So tell me, have you changed your mind about technology recently? Did you find out as I did that it can have its perks or maybe not?