Saturday, February 19, 2005

Why am I watching this?

NBC right now is showing "Autism: The Hidden Epidemic." I need to say right up front that my biggest fear, as far as possible disabilities or disorders were concerned, was that my son would be autistic. And, given my son's young age, it's not like I'm not still somewhat paranoid about this. I think my fear stems from the fact that there's so much we don't know about the causes of autism, and the fact that it can be so hard for the children to communicate their needs, fears and desires, leading to frustration on both the children's and parents' parts. Oy.

I think the show has been done pretty well. It has talked about various symptoms and the different types of treatments, and has shown lots of kids with varying degrees of autism. The only criticism I've had so far:

One of the symptoms is "lack of eye contact." Well, to demonstrate this symptom, the camera showed a mother with her child, and she was saying, "Look at me," and actually physically turning her son's head toward her, only to have him look away again. The problem with that scene: He was turning his head because the TV was on not 10 inches away from him. (This will not turn into a diatribe against kids watching TV. People in glass houses, and all that...) Of course he's going to have a hard time turning away from the TV and paying attention to mom. I hope that parents don't see that and get too worried: "My daughter watches the TV instead of looking at me when I'm talking to her. She must be autistic!" It would've been better, I think, if the producers showed the mother trying to get her child's attention when there wasn't such an obvious source of visual stimulation right nearby.

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