YouTube and Autism: The Magical Combination 


As I browsed the shelves of a local toy shop with my kids recently my daughter became rather animated and excited over something she saw.

“Hey, mum, I know what this toy does! I’ve seen it on YouTube!”



She had indeed. She knew everything about the toy from who made it, what came with it and she even knew the best way to ‘unbox it’.

 
It was not expensive and she had some birthday money to spend so we duly took the toy to the checkout where staff smiled at my 8 year old and said, ‘Good choice! Did you see it on YouTube too?’

Apparently the way to sell toys now-a-days is to simply have Ryan from ‘Ryan’s toy reviews’ or Cookie Swirl C film themselves buying them, taking them out the packaging live and playing with them. Kids are hooked on channels like this and many others and it is changing life more than we may realise. Some of these channels are so popular they get more views in one day than well known TV shows. 

 
My daughter was delighted with her purchase and could not wait to get home and comment to her ‘virtual friend’ on her favourite channel that she too had the same toy now! As we drove home she chatted away about how The Engineering family had not reviewed her toy yet and maybe they would soon too but that Cookie Swirl C loved it and she had promised to make a new video of it this week.

 
So what is my point in sharing all this: Well you may not know this but my daughter has autism. She finds communication and social interaction challenging. She is seen as different, she struggles with huge anxiety and leaving the house can be a massive challenge as transitions cause her so much stress.

 
To see her excited in public and able to overcome her anxiety enough to be able to speak, to communicate so freely and connect with me, to see her interested in something other children also like; these are all magical to me. Autism and YouTube is a magical combination to my daughter and a magical combination to me too. 

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My daughter is a visual learner and needs sensory stimuli to aid her learning. YouTube provides this so we use it to learn times tables, spelling, topic work for school and so much more. This way she is seeing, hearing, able to repeat parts over as often as needed to process, and she is in control by using her own tablet. It’s truly magical to see her finally understand something she could not grasp previously because she watched it on YouTube.



When we have to go somewhere new or unfamiliar like ten pin bowling we can type into YouTube what we need and hear and see the experience before hand. It takes social stories to a whole new level! It prepares her for sensory experiences in advance and she is able to suggest having ear defenders in order to cope. This makes her feel safer and more in control and makes the whole family at ease. That’s amazing!

 
When she struggles to know how to play with toys she can watch so many others (adults and children) play with play doh, playmobil, Thomas tank engine trains and so much more to learn ideas. While she may copy them she is still using the toys appropriately which is more than she was able to do before YouTube. That is magical.

 
YouTube helps her make friends and connect with others in a way that nothing else has. While her friends watch different (more grown up) TV shows or attend social activities she can not cope with they totally understand and connect with her when she mentions things she has seen on YouTube. It’s like suddenly she speaks the same language as everyone else. That is special.

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When she struggles to sleep (common with autism) we can find some quiet soothing music on YouTube, when she finds food stressful we can find a video of kids in a bath of jelly to make her see food is not to be feared, and when we are going out we can use a visual countdown on YouTube to help her transition.

 
If she likes YouTube then I will find ways to like it too. It is not just about nursery rhymes with Little Baby Bum or Stampy playing Minecraft, YouTube can be used to help autistic children (and adults) in so many ways. 



Oh and don’t forget that no matter how unusual their obsession may be there is most likely someone making YouTube videos all about that too!

 
Is your autistic child addicted to YouTube?

 
It doesn’t have to be all negative. Autism and YouTube can sometimes be the most magical combination ever!  

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I Don’t Want To Be An Autism Parent Anymore


The day started far too early. There was no sweet cuddles in bed or a little voice asking for a drink; no I was woken as usual by screaming. I have had day after day, month after month, year after year of being woken by screaming and I don’t want that anymore. 

I don’t want to wake up to a smell that would make you want to vomit and bedding that is fit for the bin more than the washing machine, because yet again it is covered in something that ought not to be seen by anyone else. I am so tired of that now. 

I don’t want to sit on my couch in the middle of the night looking at my child and wondering what I did to have a child who sees no point in sleeping, who at 8 still can’t say ‘mama’ and who still thinks the world revolves around his needs only. 

I love him more than words could ever convey but I don’t want to be an autism mum anymore. 

I want to be a mum who has fun with her child rather than doing therapy with them. 

I want to walk my son to school and talk to his friends instead of sending him in a taxi to a place where I am a stranger to them. 

I want to be able to talk to my child about the fact it is his birthday soon and discuss what he would like to do to mark that day. 

I want to be someone who takes my child to bowling, teaches them to ride a bike or even goes to the movies with them. Instead the only place I ever take him to is hospitals or respite. 

I am tired of missing out on everything. I am tired of never having party invites, knowing nothing about his day at school, having to still dress him, having to take adult nappies and wipes with me wherever I go. 

I don’t want to be an autism parent anymore.  

I am tired of holding my child as he screams in public again. 

I am tired of the never ending judgement, the stares and the horrid comments.

I am am tired of carrying around my broken heart as a result of the interventions and therapies having achieved nothing. 

I simply can not bear the thought of my child as an adult knowing what society is like. 

I am tired of meetings. 

I am tired of phone calls from his school. 

I am tired of fighting for everything but then being accused as having an attitude or people thinking I act like I am entitled. 

I don’t want my child to have autism anymore. This is not a ‘different way of seeing the world’ that he has, or ‘a wonderful gift’. This is a child about to be 9 years old who can not say ‘mum’ or use a bathroom himself. This is a child almost my height who still can’t put his own clothes on, brush his own teeth or dry himself after a bath. This is a child who can never ever be left alone, who has to have everything the same all the time, who self harms and wanders. This is a child still with the mind of a toddler who will require others to look after him his entire life. 

Who would want that for their child? 

Who would want that as a parent? 

Today I don’t want to be an autism parent any more. 

The problem is I have no choice. 

So I strip that bed, bath that child, cook him that breakfast as I always do and let him sit on my knee while he rewinds the same ten seconds of video on you tube he did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. 

Nothing changes much in my house, except my feelings. 

Today I am tired. I don’t want to be an autism parent today the same way any other parent may feel about not wanting to be the mum of a toddler who tantrums daily or a baby who has reflux or the partner to someone with Alzheimer’s. We all have days when we are just down about the life we have. 

Yet we carry on. We dust ourselves down, search for some positives or listen to some music. 

Tomorrow is a new day. It will probably start off with screaming again too., but maybe tomorrow I will be stronger, more hopeful, more upbeat. 

Maybe tomorrow I will want to be the autism parent I need to be. 

Maybe tomorrow. 

Ten Seconds That Prove You Should Never Underestimate A Non-Verbal Autistic Child. 


People don’t expect much of my son. 

Speech and language therapists have all but given up on him, encouraging me to just accept he is non-verbal with limited understanding.

School take him on ‘environmental excursions’ rather than reading and writing because…well he can’t hold a pencil despite having been in school for four and a half years so he is never going to read and write is he?

The learning difficulties mental health team wrote to us explaining his challenging behaviour and long spells of screaming are just part of his complex diagnosis and are unlikely to change.

The public looks down on him in distaste.

Children his own age mock him in parks and soft plays when they see he can’t talk and is still wearing nappies.

Even as his mum I sometimes find myself wondering what the future holds.

It is easy to understand why. My son has a long list of diagnosis all of which are life-long conditions. He development is years and years behind what is ought to be and he requires support for all his personal care. He is a non-verbal severely autistic 8 year old who is still very much living in his own world. 

Well that is what I thought too. That is until I happened to turn my iPad video recorder on this evening while he was playing with his iPad. What I captured changed everything.

He had been handing me his iPad on and off for the last half hour. He was pressing the ‘google’ app wanting me to type things in to let him scroll though images. It was exhausting trying to guess what he wanted to look at with no eye contact, no words to tell you and no clues. In the end, frustrated myself, I handed him the tablet back and said ‘Isaac google something?’ I never for a minute even thought he would understand let alone google something so incredible it had me in tears:

He clicked on the search button and within seconds he pressed the ‘i’, quickly followed by ‘s’, then without hesitation he pressed the ‘a’ right beside it twice, before pausing for a few seconds then finishing his search with a ‘c’. In total it took less than 10 seconds for him to prove you should never underestimate anyone!

He just typed out his own name and I had no idea he even knew it let alone how to spell it!

The speech therapists may be right about him not speaking but he clearly understands far more than they realised.

School thought he would never be able to read and write…well he may not be able to hold a pencil cold but he just wrote his name using a keyboard on an iPad so who know what else he may be able to type?

The learning difficulties health team may be right about his behaviour being part of his comprehensive and complex diagnosis but what if so much of it is frustration at understanding but unable to communicate back?

Maybe this ten second video may help the public see that you can not judge anyone by lack of speech or lack of eye contact or lack of social skills. 

It only took my son ten seconds but in that ten seconds he has proved to so many that we must never, ever underestimate anyone, especially those with non verbal severe autism.

Does my son still have difficulties? Absolutely. Should I ‘not expect too much of him’? Never!

Behind the flapping, you tube on repeat, screaming exterior is a brain hard at work piecing things together in his own way in his own time. 
People don’t expect much of my son: I do. He just showed me why.