The first thing Simon said this morning (at 5:30 am) was "Go to school? Play Games? Play Wii?" Despite the ungodly hour, I was really pleased to see that he was looking forward to his day. I do worry that putting so much work on his little plate is slightly inhumane, especially when he falls asleep almost every day on the school bus coming home.
Yesterday, the therapist had incorporated use of a Wii into his routine, and Simon was thrilled. Unsurprising, since our little guy loves screen time. Whether it is TV, video games, the computer, or Mom's iPhone, Simon is all over it. His attention span goes from practically nil to pretty impressive as soon as there is a techno-glow to bask in.
In the past, I was often concerned that Simon's obsession, particularly with the television, was a sign of my bad parenting. I'm very careful about what the kids watch, but I felt that overall it was just too much. This was until one of Simon's therapists' observed that he was picking up on speech cues from TV that he was completely inattentive to in any other situation. (True.) And, he seemed to follow directions a lot better when they came from Dora... (yeah.) And, are those letters he is recognizing from Sesame Street? (Yup.)
I had always realized that there was something going on, but I was still pretty confused about what and why. Did Simon's ability to process information from the "tube" somehow reflect my inability to present it well enough in "real" life? Was I was a total failure as a parent, or was there something here that I was completely missing?
Olivia had (and still has) practically no interest in television. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had always taken credit for the fact that she preferred pretend play, books and coloring as somehow due to my particular parenting savvy. Nothing like having kid #2 to throw everything you think you know about being a parent out the window...
Now, I am starting to see that the answer to this mystery has little to do with my parenting acumen (or lack thereof). Rather, it is another "missing piece" starting to fall into place. I'm certain of this especially after my recent reading on the topic of sensory issues. My kids are just wired differently. Simon finds the lights, music and action on screen far more stimulating than any other activities. They literally turn him "on" in a way that a typical storybook or craft project can't.
At KKI technology, particularly iPads and the promise that they hold for greater accessibility to the disabled community, are all the buzz. Our Nueropsychologist lit up like a christmas tree when talking about the many ways that they are looking into developing new apps to help their patients. The field is wide open, and holds potential for everything from allowing people with communication disabilities to read and write, to helping multiply disabled children find the motivation and reminders needed to preform daily self-care tasks. He encouraged us to find ways to use our smart phones with Simon, either as a reward or as the tool to accomplish the task itself, and so far we are seeing some results.
(He also put in a persuasive plug for us to invest in an iPad, which I do see in our future. Really someone from Apple should put this guy on a commission, he's doing an excellent job promoting their product! Steve Jobs, if you ever read this, message me.)
As I am coming to understand this more fully, I am trying to think of more and more ways I can use it to Simon's advantage. Perhaps this love of technology and his (potentially) "normal" analytical skills can combine to help him find a way to make a living for himself in the future? Perhaps it will just help him use the potty... yes, you bet there is an app for that! Courtesy of "Huggies Pull-Ups." It is a free download, too.. (in case you need one). The only downside is that every hour or so your phone will tell you that it is "Time to use the potty!" -- potentially embarrassing if you forget to turn this off when you are, say, at a business meeting...