“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.
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.
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!