Posts Tagged ‘ Autism ’

Transitioning My 20 Month-Old Into TV Time

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

20 months.

I have always felt very strongly against allowing my son to watch TV before the age of 2 years old.

Yes, I am one of those quirky parents who believes there is a link between boys under the age of 2 watching TV daily and Autism.

As a father of a little boy, I am very aware that boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with Autism than girls.

While I know there are many factors as to why, it’s interesting to point out that males compartmentalize their thoughts separately from each other, while females constantly intersect theirs.

That explains why when you ask a guy what he is thinking and he says “nothing,” he is probably telling the truth. Because he is currently in his “nothing box.”

But if my understanding about females is correct, they can never truly “think about nothing” the way males can.

In other words, by default, the male mind already works like a TV. If he needs to think about a different subject, he has to change the channel in his head to that subject first. But the female mind works more like a laptop computer with at least 8 windows up and running at all times.

She is used to the constant multitasking in her brain. Meanwhile, guys are built to be task-orientated, so they stay on that certain channel until the job is done, or change the channel and come back to it later, as if during the commercial break.

The theory is that during those very crucial first two years of a boy’s life, he is still developing his “how to properly change the channel in his head” ability.

So a boy who is exposed to a TV during that crucial time of development, with changing channels, switching camera angles, and no natural pauses in conversation, can get confused and the channels in his head start changing on their own.

Another reason I am convinced of this theory is explained in an article for Slate Magazine, where it is revealed that the reported number of Autistic cases shot up in 1980 (just a few months before I was born), when cable TV and VCR’s became easily accessible in American households.

The number of Autism cases were higher in states where the weather was gloomier (like Oregon and Washington) where children were more likely to stay inside and watch TV.

Interestingly, cases of Autism are nearly non-existent in Amish communities where TV’s are nowhere to be found.

I also support this article in Time magazine which says that TV cuts down on a toddler’s “talk time,” according to pediatricians.

Well, my son is now 20 months old; that’s just 4 months away from that “TV is now safe” milestone of 2 years old. So recently, I have been more flexible on his exposure to TV.

He’s still very obsessed with Elmo. Fate would have it that Sesame Street is on now Netflix’s live streaming. (We don’t have cable or a satellite.)

One of his new routines is for me to turn on Sesame Street in the morning while he plays with his toys or the Wii remote. I keep the volume very low as to not interrupt any conversation between the two of us.

The funny thing is, he doesn’t actually watch the show. He totally doesn’t have the attention span for that right now.

All he really wants to do is just point at the screen every once and while and say “Elmo” or “dog” or “noodle,” referring to Mr. Noodle in the Elmo’s World segment.

My son likes the idea of watching TV, but when given the chance, he doesn’t actually watch it.

Here’s the twist: I really look forward to the day he does want to. I haven’t watched a Disney Pixar movie since Toy Story 2 came out on DVD like a decade ago.

I have a lot of catching up to do!

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Yo Gabba Gabba! May Induce Hypnotism, Evidently

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

16 months.

Though I am intentionally keeping Jack from regularly watching TV until he turns two years-old, because I believe in the theory that it is linked to Autism, I really really look forward to the day that he and I can watch some cool shows together. Just about a half a year from now…

So I’m currently in the process of scouting out shows for he and I to enjoy together, as a I scroll through the children’s section of Netflix’s instant streaming on my Wii.

My favorite so far is Yo Gabba Gabba! It is surreal, extremely repetitive, and saturated in techno music. While watching this show, I make it a personal goal of mine not to get hypnotized by DJ Lance Rock and friends.

As for my only niece on my side of the family, she wasn’t as successful to resist as I have been.

While spending Easter weekend in Alabama with my family, I told my sister she had to watch to first episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!

Her husband watched Jack play on the living room floor as I held their daughter Calla in my lap, who was curious to catch a glimpse of the show.

Calla has a reputation for not easily taking naps during the day. From what I’ve observed, she has to be held and rocked to fall asleep.

So it was very strange for my sister to watch this happen:

She ended up sleeping in this awkward face-down position for about 20 minutes. I wish I could give Yo Gabba Gabba! all the credit, but I should take some for myself. I’m thinking that my “manly musk” is part of the comfort in helping my niece enter Slumber Land.

I naturally smell like an enchanted forest. Sort of like the one featured on Yo Gabba Gabba!

 

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Why My Son Isn’t Allowed to Watch TV

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Eleven months.

Yes, I’m that kind of dad. From the very beginning, I have stuck to my guns about my son not being prematurely exposed to TV, computers, smart phones, or any other kind of device that might confuse his brain regarding what is reality and what is a simulated image.

I’ve written about this before, saying that I’m part of the school of thought that believes there is a tie between Autism and TV. For me, letting a child under the age of 2 watch TV is like feeding him soda in a bottle; it’s simply unnatural in every way.

So ultimately, that is why my son isn’t allowed to watch TV, for at least another year. But the physical reason he can’t watch it is because we currently don’t really have one; unless you count the old-school (2006) 34 inch we keep just for watching Netflix and playing Wii, which rarely happens these days.

Even if we could afford cable, we wouldn’t have time to watch it without seriously jeopardizing the small amount of time we have together as a family. The TV we have is so outdated it won’t even pick up the main networks with an antenna.

Additionally, I’m not cool enough to have the Internet on my phone. Therefore, I’m fine with my son playing with my phone: The worst he has done so far is to text the message “xykghild” to an imaginary contact named “olkhgenjnbsd.”Sounds Icelandic to me.

Heck, he doesn’t even have age appropriate toys to play with. How does an eleven month old little boy learn to psychologically mature with a toy basket full of stuffed animals and some wooden blocks he mainly uses for chew toys? He doesn’t.

Instead, my son makes a game out of finding crumbs of a wheat tortilla that fell into the seat of his high chair.

He takes the cupcake pan out of the cabinet and walks to the other side of the room with it; then falls on top of it, using it as a sled across the carpet.

He speaks in some weird robot language to the invisible army of cats he evidently commands on a regular basis.

Honestly, I don’t see how my son would have time for TV and other electronic entertainment even if we could afford it. I guess he’s stuck with just his parents and his imagination. But I really don’t think he minds being a low-tech baby.

My son has plenty of time to catch up to all the cool, tech-savvy toddlers out there. I’m sure he’ll send me a text message from his first day at Kindergarten. That is, if texting isn’t culturally irrelevant by then.

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Autism Awareness (and Prevention)

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Week 9.

Warning: May contain many unpopular views and opinions or have been processed in a facility by a nut (myself).  Tempting disclaimer, huh?

Though it may make me a heartless cynic to say so, I feel a bit overwhelmed with the constant conveyer belt of magnetic ribbons and colorful rubber bracelets showing up in popular culture, each promoting their own sincere cause.  And I know where this unpopular perspective of mine comes from: I am the kind of person who is bothered when I feel that prevention is passively ignored, while the search for a cure is actively worshipped.  So while it’s good when I give my money to research, no matter what the just cause, it’s also important to ask, “What can I do besides make myself feel good by giving money in the name of hope?  What can I actually do?”

My Italian grandfather, who I was very close to, passed away due to cancer a couple of years ago, just a few weeks after I got married.  I know what it’s like to watch someone you love have to suffer from something as awful as cancer.  But just like he himself did as long as I knew him, I worship cancer’s prevention more than I do its cure.  It puts the responsibility in my hands, not someone else’s. Granted, I really, really, really hope they find a cure for cancer. Soon.

In my scarcely read post, BS Detector, I explained it this way: “For all the millions of dollars we have donated to breast cancer research, the strongest findings they have released to us is this: The more fat a person consumes on a daily basis, the more likely they are to eventually get breast cancer. This does not necessarily mean that overweight people are more prone to breast cancer.  Because some people eat a lot of fattening foods, yet stay slim.” So while my Shell Diet may seem a bit extreme, it’s my way of making the most of what researchers have actually learned so far from the millions of dollars we’ve donated to the good cause of cancer research.  Granted, it’s not likely I am prone to get breast cancer, but I am overaware that what I eat is related to the chances of me getting or preventing some kind of cancer or disease.

In recent years, I have found myself to be confused when I see “Autism Awareness” magnets on cars.  I have trouble understanding how I am supposed to physically react.  If Autism Awareness is supposed to mean that people need to be aware of the symptoms of an Autistic person so that they can be more understanding when interacting with them as well as devoting a respecting reverence (not pity or indifference) towards the families of the Austistic; well, sure, I can agree to that.  But now that I have a child, the term “Autism Awareness” means something entirely different to me than that.

The exact cause of Autism has yet to be determined, but everyone has their own suspicious reasons of why they think it is caused.  Perhaps the most popular suspected cause of Autism is from vaccinations.  Not me.  While I am one of those kooky people who is very cautious of antibiotics and prescription drugs in general, yet strongly supports natural medicine for the suffering, including medical marijuana, I see no consistent evidence between vaccinations and Autism. Instead, the most convincing case I have heard of gained national attention in 2006 thanks to a Cornell University report: watching TV may cause young children to develop Autism.

In an article for Slate Magazine by Steve Easterbook, he explains that the reported number of Autistic cases shot up in 1980 (just a few months before I was born), when cable TV and VCR’s became the norm in American households.  The instances of Autism were higher in states where the weather was gloomier (like Oregon and Washington) where children were more likely to stay inside and watch TV.  Interestingly, cases of Autism are nearly non-existent in Amish communities where TV’s are nowhere to be found.  But how could Autism possibly be tied in with TV time?

In 2009, I wrote a 14 part series called Manspeak (its table of contents is featured at the very bottom of this post), where I documented all my findings as a recent newlywed regarding the social and psychological differences between men and women. The most important theme was that men are wired to be black-and-white, “just the facts”, problem-solving machines who only process things one at a time. However, women are wired to be charismatic, “it’s a long story…”, emotional social networkers, who naturally are gifted at multi-tasking.  With that in mind, it’s interesting to note that according to this article in USA Today, males are four times more likely to develop Autism than females, and children who develop Autism almost always do so before the age of three years old.

To me, it’s very clear that Autism is a social disorder caused by one’s environment, not a physical disease. Obviously though, genetics may very well play a major part in it, as with most things.  I believe that when human social contact is replaced by TV’s, it alters a child’s perception of social reality.  So for me, it’s no surprise that the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends against any TV for children under the age of 2.  Because it is during that time, especially for boys, that that the “social processing” part of the brain is being set-up for the rest of the child’s life.

It is my belief that when a child watches TV before their own social skills have largely developed (around age 2 or 3), the TV’s constantly changing camera angles, flashing lights, and switching channels, the child’s learns his or her social skills from the TV; therefore, Autism is developed.  Obviously, people were Autistic before TV’s were around, by I have to believe that when children under the age of 2 or 3 watch TV, their chances of becoming Autistic are greatly increased.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard Autism described like this:  ”It’s like having the channels constantly changed.”  I take that familiar comparison as a major clue as to how Autism is largely caused.  It makes sense that more boys are Autistic than girls:  As previously mentioned, females are wired in a way that socially, everything is connected together and relevant.  For males though, everything they do is compartmentalized.  I believe that when young boys aren’t given the chance to develop their social skills on their own, unlike girls who naturally have more of a buffer or insurance against becoming Autistic because they tend not to compartmentalize things, their social life becomes compartmentalized, but with “changing channels”, as mimicked from the TV.

So how does this information affect how I handle my now 9 week old soon?  I constantly make a conscious effort to make sure he is not facing our TV for any more than just a few minutes.  Granted, the picture of him with my wife featured twice in this post was taken Monday night while The Bachelor was on: He was very intrigued by the women on the screen, as his facial expression reveals.  (I write a recap of The Bachelor every week.) But as always, after a few moments of letting him see the bright lights of the TV, we turned him away and focused his attention elsewhere.

I know that children can develop Autism without ever seeing a TV in their life, but if I’m going to personally take “Autism Awareness” seriously, being aware of his exposure to TV early on (and by telling anyone else who is willing to listen) is a way I can actually do something and be involved in Autism Awareness.

Manspeak

Catch up on what you’ve missed from my 2009 series, “Manspeak”.  Originally,  I had intended to write a series about true masculinity for a male audience.  Then I learned that the majority of my readers are actually female.  So females, here’s a look into the wiring of the male mind and a reasoning for your man’s behavior.  Just click on the title to read the post.

-1 Boyspeak

0 Introduction

1 Humor

2 Heroism

3 Filtration

4 Stance

5 Movement

6 Filtration

7 Bromance

8 Relaxation

9 Appearance

10 Exploration

11 Responsibility

12 Transparency

13 Composure

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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Reviewing The Business of Being Born

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Fourteen weeks.  Second trimester.

For the past several weeks, my wife has been toying with the idea of “going natural” for the birth.  In other words, no pain medication.  And I’ve been impressed just by her willingness, because I know if it were up to the men of the world to continue the human population by giving birth instead of women, the human population would have died off thousands of years ago.

I had been seeing The Business of Being Born keep popping up on my Netflix as a recommended title that I would enjoy.  Then recently, a writer friend (http://www.meetmissjones.com/) also told me I should see it after she read about our disappointment with our first two appointments at a standard hospital.  (Of course, we ended up switching to midwives and are so happy, though I had no idea what a midwife really even was when we first met with them.)

So last night we watched the documentary, The Business of Being Born, directed by Ricki Lake and produced by Abby Epstein (yes, they are both Jewish).  I went into it thinking it would be a tiring movie telling how much money is made off of strollers, cribs, daycare, etc.

Instead, it is a one-sided film about the importance of the long-lost tradition of natural births.  And we loved it!

I took notes:

-Induced labor increases the chances of C-Section by 50%

-In Japan and Europe, 70% of births are delivered by a midwife.  In the US, only 8%

-The US has the 2nd worst newborn death rate in the developed world

-The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized countries

-Since 1996 the C-Section rate in the US has risen 46%; In 2005, it was one out of every 3 American births

While there are obviously certain situations where a C-Section is absolutely necessary (like the baby being “breach”), it is a major surgery that has become the new norm.

Interestingly, in the movie, a group of young doctors are asked how many live births they have witnessed.  Basically, none of them had.

And to me, that’s scary.  That it’s easier, less time consuming, and more profitable to induce labor and perform a C-Section that it is to let the baby born naturally.

In the documentary they explain how the peak times for American babies being born is at 4pm and 10pm, the times at the end of the work shifts so that doctors can go home.

For me, the desire to have a natural birth all comes down to observing the downward spiral of having a baby in a hospital, with a doctor, the American way:

The mother is given Pitocin, to induce labor.  Which causes longer, more intense contractions and cuts off oxygen to the baby, putting both the mother and the baby at risk, as well as potentially causing birth defects (even ADHD or Autism in the child later on, though not enough evidence can back this yet, but I won’t be surprised when it can).

So inducing labor increases the chances of having a C-Section by 50%, which puts both mother and child at greater risk.  And the epidural slows down the birthing process- which in addition to the Pitocin, is another drug that may also affect the health of the baby.

Until last night, I had never witnessed a live human birth.  But now I’ve seen at least four or five.  All of them natural.

It’s pretty interesting to watch.  I didn’t think it was gross, and I’m not artistic enough off a person to go on and on about how beautiful it was.  It just seemed natural and normal.  Like watching someone poop.  But a baby came out instead.

The Business of Being Born does contain a large amount of nudity, as most of the mothers are nude while giving birth.  But we were so intrigued by watching the births, that it didn’t register, “hey, this is porn”.  It was just a woman giving birth.  The documentary is not rated, because if it was, it may have to be rated NC-17.  But to that I say, What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get?

One of the major reasons I now support natural birth (and denounce induced labor by a doctor, with certain exceptions) is the fact that in a hospital, the mother lays down flat on a bed.  Common sense tells us that gravity will naturally help pull the baby out.  Plus the fact that by having the mother lay down flat, it gives the baby less room to come out.

I also learned that when a baby is born naturally, “a love cocktail of hormones” is released by the mother, causing a unique bond to occur between the mother and the child.

This is where we’re headed.  This is what we will attempt.  A natural birth overseen by midwives.  Yet just down the hall from an M.D. in case something goes wrong.

We just have to be weird, don’t we?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Business_of_Being_Born

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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