When I only had one “typical” child I was involved in every waking moment of her life. I read to her, played with her, made sure she was listening to Bach as she fell asleep (good for brain development you know). She was my world, and I created “the world” for her. I was also very careful about what she saw on television. Only certain shows were good enough for my child. And the list of shows was very small. My favorites were Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers on Public Broadcasting and Little Bill on Nickelodeon. Shows such as Barney, Sponge Bob and Teletubbies were out of the question – they were too annoying, too fake, too obnoxious for my daughter.
When she was three years old we had child number two, another girl, who’s existence would not only topple our oldest off her pedestal, but in some ways also kick her to the curb. Our second daughter had “special needs” – later diagnosed as autism, and required every bit of attention we could muster. I’d like to say I was good at managing things and making sure my oldest got the attention she needed, but that would be a lie. I’m not saying I neglected her, but I know there were times I could’ve done a MUCH better job at responding to her need for mommy.
One of the things she enjoyed though was a little more freedom of choice. I didn’t have the time to be that hovering, “looking over her shoulder” mom anymore. I was too caught up in dealing with state agencies, physical, occupational, speech and developmental therapists, and physically taking care of my younger daughter. So before I realized it Barney was on, and before I knew what was happening Teletubbies was on. I tried turning them off, but my three year old was enjoying them, and my “special needs” daughter would have a meltdown if I switched the channel. I had to pick my battles, and tv turned out not to be one of them. I really didn’t like those shows!
But a show I hated was to become one of my favorites at the same time.
One day when watching the opening sequence of Teletubbies in which a baby’s face appears inside the sun (which I actually find kind of creepy), my practically non-verbal daughter reached toward the tv screen and said “saa.” She was saying and meaning “sun!” Just to be sure, I payed attention the next time it came on, and sure enough she pointed (also a relatively new skill for her) at the sun and said, “saa.” Wow. Just wow. Shortly thereafter Teletubbies helped her add another word to her vocabulary – “faa” for flower. Later I realized that her first word, “uh-oh,” was also part of the opening sequence! Her speech therapist and I were overjoyed!
We never know what will click with our children.
What if I had been more “on top of things” with the tv and she had never seen the show? I’m sure she still would have learned how to talk, but we would’ve missed a great motivator. I can’t say I ever liked the show, but if it helped her want to talk, then she could watch it all day long!
Now she is just a few months from turning twelve. Her volume and diction aren’t what they could be, she regularly confuses verb tenses, has problems with many pronunciations and is NOT good at small talk. But talk she does. In fact she talks A LOT and sometimes I even have to tell her to stop! Teletubbies, as much as I hated it, had its role to play in this – and for that I am very thankful. I still find it annoying and a little creepy, but I will defend Teletubbies to anyone.