Sev­er­al arti­cles pub­lished this year have sug­gest­ed a rela­tion­ship between TV and autism. I don’t pre­tend to be an expert on autism but I have cared for numer­ous chil­dren younger than 3 years.

My first rule in care­giv­ing is “no TV”. In house­holds where the par­ents use TV as a babysit­ter or as part of their reward sys­tem there is some reluc­tance on the part of the child to relin­quish TV view­ing but with the right tim­ing and the sug­ges­tion of some­thing bet­ter to do I receive their cooperation.

I con­sid­er that if I am expect­ed to care for chil­dren it is an absolute waste of my time to be sit­ting and watch­ing so-called ‘educational’ videos with them.

I don’t know when any intel­li­gent adult last watched ‘educational’ tele­vi­sion but it is no way to learn the lan­guage, or any­thing else for that mat­ter, despite claims to the con­trary by par­ents and educators.

Over the years there have been some great children’s TV pro­grammes. ‘Reading Rain­bow’ and ‘Where in the World is Car­men Sandiego’ to name just two. Both these pro­grams showed adults clear­ly speak­ing on screen.

My sons watched those pro­grams only after they had learned to speak and only on an occa­sion­al basis.

Many peo­ple sim­ply do not under­stand the inher­ent chal­lenges for an infant or child who watch­es too much TV. Mod­ern infants often have a TV or DVD play­er in their bed­rooms and are fre­quent­ly put into their cribs at nap or bed­times and an ‘educational’ video is put on.

Even the most earnest of researchers would be hard pressed to know how much time chil­dren under 3 are real­ly spend­ing in front of ‘educational’ TV or videos. 

Par­ents have told me “my chil­dren don’t watch TV”. Once I became a care­giv­er for their chil­dren I was hor­ri­fied to see that those very chil­dren watch end­less DVD’s or record­ed ‘educational’ TV programs. 

Based on my obser­va­tions I esti­mate that such chil­dren, when in the care of par­ents or oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers, may watch one or more videos/musicals (such as Dis­ney car­toon musi­cals) in the morn­ing hours, a video to fall asleep to for the after­noon nap and anoth­er video in the ear­ly evening hours. By my esti­mate that would be a min­i­mum of 4 1/2 hours of TV-like mate­r­i­al EVERY DAY!

That is a hor­rif­ic amount of TV time. Even the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Pedi­atrics rec­om­mends no TV for those under 2! Near­ly every mid­dle class house­hold now has a TV in every room. That means one in each child’s bed­room, one in the adult bed­rooms and oth­ers in the var­i­ous oth­er com­mon rooms in a house.

It’s also the eas­i­est and cheap­est babysit­ter of all. 

But, just take a moment and watch a children’s car­toon pro­gram with­out the sound and you will soon see why it is that so many chil­dren aren’t learn­ing to talk.

In learn­ing to talk a child is exam­in­ing every part of the adult’s facial move­ments – we don’t even know what an infant or tod­dler is absorb­ing by lis­ten­ing and watch­ing our faces. Plen­ty of peo­ple are read­ing to their chil­dren, which is great, but what they for­get is that they are depriv­ing chil­dren of look­ing at liv­ing human faces whilst that per­son is talk­ing. Chil­dren need to be spo­ken to face-to-face every day.

A min­i­mum of 24 hours a week one-on-one face-to-face is need­ed to insure a young child devel­ops speech and lan­guage appro­pri­ate to his/her age and abil­i­ty. That’s a lit­tle over 3 hours each day with the same per­son – prefer­ably a lov­ing mother. 

I don’t count time rid­ing in the car or going to the store unless you make it an adven­ture. I sug­gest that very few chil­dren spend that much time with one par­ent each day or with a spe­cial and con­sis­tent caregiver.

Spe­cial needs chil­dren are spend­ing bits of time with their var­i­ous ther­a­pists many days of the week. If they just spent that time with one con­sis­tent lov­ing care­giv­er, prefer­ably their moth­er, many of their devel­op­men­tal delays would just fade away. 

I have been that care­giv­er and am proud to say that no child left my care with­out being able to talk and com­mu­ni­cate and any of those with speech and behav­ioral delays and deficits always end up coop­er­at­ing with me and soon show last­ing improve­ment in every area. 

Turn the TV off!!