Baby Einstein, stay strong!
The world is facing great problems; Haiti is in the midst of mourning the loss of family and friends, economic hardship is covering the country, terrorists are trying to destroy and pedophiles walk the street. Instead of dedicating our time, efforts and money on these issues, society seeks to destroy the reputation of a brand, like Baby Einstein, a company who has done so much good for so many children.
The founders of the Baby Einstein videos, William and Julie Aigner-Clark are at the center of a recent NY Times article fighting to defend their "legacy". The controversy is over a research study from Washington University stating that "television watching in young children can lead to or are linked to attention deficit problems or delayed language development." Baby Einstein was also under fire for falsely promoting the videos as educational. Though googling "educational video requirements" brings up many educational video options, there is no official documentation of the expected content that would make up an educational video. Disney decided to respect the concerns of parents, took the higher road and offered refunds or exchanges.
The American Pediatric Association recommends that a child under 2 should not watch any television. Parents have access to this information and have the power to set the rules for their child. If you don't want your child to watch television, then don't turn it on. In Washington University's study, they were unable to provide the documentation or research method used in their findings.
Baby Einstein videos have opened up the minds of young children to experience a world most adults didn't know about until high school or college. Two, three, and four year olds can decipher between the sounds of Mozart, Beethoven, or Bach, realize the makings of Van Gough or Monet, and repeat the sections of an orchestra flawlessly. Music and visualization work different areas of the brain. Introducing these to children, at an early age, creates interest for future endeavors.
While most children won't grow up to be an Einstein, they can have an appreciation for the arts. That is what the Baby Einstein videos create. This is personal. As a mother of a child with autism, I received the Baby Bach video as a gift from a friend. From the very first time the video played, my son received the needed feedback (sensory input) that many children with sensory integration problems seek. He was mesmerized. You ask for proof of the benefits. here is a list relating to the entire family:
Comfortable: The music provides comfort. Paired with the visual stimulation of puppets, movement, or lighting, the senses are revitalized. Almost immediately, fidgeting and crying stopped and happiness ensued.
Parent effectiveness: The Baby Einstein videos provided 20 minutes of re-grouping and sanity maintenance. Sitting down to eat a meal or being able to wash your hair is like winning the lottery when you haven't had enough free time to do these menial tasks.
Interest and therapy: By now, you may be thinking: "this mother is not hands on or cares about monitoring her child's entertainment" or "she is using the television as a babysitter". Any parent with a special needs child knows the answer to those comments. The depth of dedication a parent with an autistic child has is in a class of its own. The word complacency will never be spoken, Alternative therapies like music therapy have significant benefits to children with autism. It allows a form of communication and sensory release. Baby Einstein videos provide a priceless service...a type of therapy. Educational: The interest in music and rhythym can parlay into a deeper appreciation with music/instrumental lessons. We chose the drums because of the timing and the ability to have the motor skills necessary for practicing. Low muscle tone (apraxia) and coordination difficulties eliminated other instruments (i.e. Sax, guitar). Some research suggests that drumming is beneficial to children on the spectrum because of their sensory difficulties. The initial interest in the percussion (Tthe "Baby Hippo" video) helped lead to lessons. What is on your ipod? For this family, all of the Baby Einstein music series is included. That is true education.
Visual: Pairing visualization with conceptual teaching enhances retention. Add the auditory sounds of these videos to convey a feeling or funny action and this is a home run, especially for an autisitic child who have difficulties with understanding non-verbal cues. Typically, an autistic child is a visual learner. Their communication efforts are harbored so it is with visualization techniques that parents, therapists and teachers are able to provide a bridge for them to learn and communicate effectively and without frustration. In their techniques, Baby Einstein is opening up these little minds to a sea of wonderful imagination, music, art, sounds, poetry etc.
Routine: Kids thrive on it. Each Baby Einstein video is carefully structured so the child can set its own expectations. Knowing what comes next is comforting to a child. They are learning so much, so fast that they seek out routine. The Baby Einstein videos build upon the others so that with each new video, the child still feels secure and a a sense of familiarity.
Which side of the fence do you fall on in this controversy?
If you liked this article, you may like: www.examiner.com/x-1713-Hartford-Special-Needs-Kids-Examiner