Thursday, November 17, 2011

Robbie the Robot

It is recommended that young kids get limited T.V. and computer time. When Calder was around 2 and 3 years old, I really had a lot of guilt and grief over letting him watch T.V., videos or be on the computer for any length of time. It was around his 3rd birthday, that he learned his alphabet, on his own, using the computer. His Grandma and Pampa were here to celebrate his birthday and had bought him a Sesame Street computer game. While Pampa and Calder were sitting at the computer together, I could hear Calder (who was not speaking yet), repeat the letters of the alphabet! No one prompted him to do that , he just did it. It didn't take long before Calder could recite the entire alphabet on his own, without the help of his computer game.

At 5, Calder now knows how to read at about a 3rd grade level, I'm guessing. Other than reading books with him at bedtime, I really have to give him all the credit for his reading skills. We never pushed him to learn his letters, or to read, in fact we DID teach him in other deficient areas, mostly social skills. But he basically tought himself to read and write.

There is a browser called Zac Browser, that was developed for kids with autism who play online computer games. It takes out any ads, membership requests, any unnessary banners and words and simply presents the websites as icons on a dashboard. There is one site in particular that is Brittish and the stories are told with an accent. They are mostly social/emotional stories: "Robbie has a hat he loves. When Robbie goes outside the wind blows his hat off. Robbie feels sad". Robbie is a simple animated guy with a monitor for a head. On the screen is a face of a real guy with blond curly hair. Personally, I think it is a little creepy, but Calder seems to really love it. He plays that particular game a lot.

I don't remember where we were, or when it was exactly, but once Calder saw a kid crying. Up until that point, Calder never really noticed the emotions of others. We had to teach him, by demonstrating facial expressions, all the simple emotions. Tell me how funny it is to take the time and mental energy to say, "look at my face, I feel MAD", when I would be furious at something. That takes great mental power.

Back to the crying kid. It may have been a friend, or a kid at the park, but when Calder saw the sad kid, he says in a Brittish accent "look that girl feels sad, we can give her a hug to help her feel bet-tuh". At this moment I had an epiphany! Since hearing a perfect Brittish accent coming from my adorable kid....since my kid recognized an emotion of another....and since my kid KNEW what was an accectable and even socially expected response...I knew it was Robbie who taught him that! At that moment, it occured to me that Calder was learning social behaviors, not from observing Eric and I or his peers, but from a computer game.

So began the letting go of all the guilt over computer time. In our family, the computer and the T.V. have been great learning tools. Sure they have to be moderated, or else he would spend hours on them. But they teach him things that he couldn't learn from us.


Eileen said...

What Calder likes on the computer doesn't involve shooting people, speeding cars, superheroes, or violence. He chooses learning games. Good for him. He's hooked on learning.

mountainorbit said...

I had not even thought of that I have even less guilt over it!

Women Without Tangible Filters said...

Melissa, Thackery and I read this and loved it. He is looking forward to hearing Calder's British accent. Have been loving your blog. :) Cas