I got a lot of negative feedback on Gifted Homeschool Forum’s facebook share of my Reaction to Disney Pulling Content from Netflix post. It was a news/politically charged day, so maybe people were upset by one thing and it came out in a safer outlet. Maybe they truly didn’t understand that it’s not just some random TV show to us. Mostly I felt like maybe I had failed to communicate why it matters. So, I’d like to try to explain better.
This is Lady Bug. She just turned 4 years old. Not quite a year and a half ago she was formally identified/diagnosed as Autistic, level 3 aka high supports needs, with Sensory Processing Disorder, a global developmental delay, and a speech delay. She was speaking precociously at 14-24 months and then the summer after she turned two she just kind of stopped. At one point between her major regression and her identification/diagnosis (a 9 month span thanks to the wait for assessment around here) for several months the only communication medium she used was songs from the Disney TV show, Little Einsteins. (Not to be confused with Baby Einsteins, which is a completely different show.) She did not speak, but she would sing the melody of the songs from the show, and with my prior knowledge I was able to guess what meaning they held for her. When she sang the melody for “Rocket Needs a Home,” I guessed she felt lost about our move. There was a song for when she was happy, that she sometimes sang when she was really upset and was trying to comfort herself. There was the song that meant she heard that we love her and she was trying to tell us she loved us back. When she started to sing the melody, and I joined her with the words, her face would light up and she would look at me with such joy that someone had understood her and was reciprocating. This was her language. When she finally did start talking again, it was through scripting. She would speak lines from the show to herself. Entertaining herself for hours with the TV off, going through her favorite parts. When she said a line and someone else said the next line, it was magical. It taught her that we wanted to connect with her, and that made her want to connect with us. It taught her that she wasn’t alone in the world, and she didn’t have to always be in her mind; she could join us outside of herself, and Little Einsteins was the bridge that made that possible.
Lady Bug still scripts a lot; it is her primary form of communication. She now scripts from several sources, but Little Einsteins is still an important one. Sometimes she regresses for a while and doesn’t say anything for what always feels like too long, and I wonder if I will ever hear her sweet voice again. Having her scripting sources play on the TV helps her, and she comes back scripting even more.
When I wrote my previous post, I was panicked and scared. I was scared of the bridge being burned and gone forever. Since writing it I have found out that Disney is not pulling it’s content until 2019, which is a big relief. A friend also found a way to buy the episodes so we can always have them. We’re not rich by any means, but we will be able to spread out the cost over the next year and a half and be okay. But we’re lucky to be able to do that. There are plenty of families who are spending every spare cent they have on therapies and home sensory helps, families that can’t afford the added expense of paying separately for Disney content. Families for whom Disney is just as important in their families as it is in ours. That’s why I questioned it as a hardship.