Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Silent Generation

WARNING: if you are of a delicate disposition about the ways of the world, look away now!

I am back at work with a vengence. My day job involves working with children under five in a Childrens Centre. Many of these children have speech problems.

As it is September we are having a large new intake, so the next two weeks are taken up with visiting our new children at home. I loathe it, because it brings home an essential part of parenting that is missing in this, and previous, generations.

Yesterday I visited a child who has no speech at all (this is quite rare). Tests and records show that this child has passed hearing and sight tests, there is no outward genetical problems and all is intact physically. No disfluency, no oral dyspraxia, both parents have language but the child could only point and make a grunt if he wanted something. So what's the problem?

During the whole of my time with this family I had to shout to make myself heard above the sound of the television. I asked politely if it could be turned off for a while but they looked horrified at my request and just turned the volume down one notch. Luckily I can lip read.

This little boy sat there the whole time with his eyes glued to the screen, oblivious to what was going on around him. He couldn't even drag himself away with the temptation of the exciting bag of toys that I had brought with me.

"Oh yes" said the mother "he's ever so good. We don't hear a peep out of him from morning until night, so contented".

How I managed to refrain from strangling the pair of them I don't know, but I do know that for the next year or so my work with this child is going to be totally focussed on trying to bring him into the real world. This is happening more and more. We have 30 new children starting over the next month and 18 of them have speech difficulties.



Debi said...

Bloody Hell. You mean I have to TALK to them???

Seriously though, Minxerooni, you are so right. At one point when my boys were small I was into EastEnders - until I realised I was shushing up my kids so I could hear what Pat Butcher was saying. I've never watched it since ...

Marie said...

The ignorance of some people! Some really don't deserve to have kids.

Trying to speak over a blaring TV is one of those things that drives me mad. I don't know how you held it all together, Minx. I know I wouldn't have been able too.

Unknown said...

I am not saying that tv is bad for you. There are many fantastic programmes (even if 95% is crud). We all need a space in which to switch off. A dose of EastEnders is not detrimental to anyone's health Debi. I just wish parents would learn where the 'off' button is.

And Marie, no I don't know how I refrain from throwing the telly out of the window. The only thing that stops me is the knowledge that this child will soon be away from it for a few hours each day. It is enough!

Anonymous said...

They say that increasingly kids are turning away from TV and to the internet - I'm wondering what the result of that will be?
It's gobsmacking the things people will do to shut their kids up - begs the question, why did they bother to have them in the first instance.
Mad, mad world.
Good luck with this little boy - he's lucky to have someone like you willing to help him.

Lee said...

An old friend used to be a preschool teacher. She told me once that she had to teach a high proportion of the children how to play. Personally, I get rather rabid about this: I think TV should be outlawed for kids under 5 or 6. But then again, I think it should be outlawed for anyone under 21 also! The last time I remember watching was on
9/11 and the days afterwards. So I reckon I'm not really qualified to judge.

Unknown said...

Why bother to have them in the first place Atyllah? Well, it's 'the circle of life'.....
Have large numbers of children -> get loads of money from the goverment-> then buy bigger tv!!

And Lee, what you're friend says is true - lots of children don't know how to play. Unfortunately these children are the product of parents who were probably never played with themselves.

I'll never forget my mum breaking her ankle when teaching me French skipping!!

Maxine Clarke said...

My Mum actually did ban TV, Lee and Minx. I remember it well because I remember the last programmes I watched and what was no. 1 at the time (not going to reveal my almost-150-year-old age by saying which!) I was around 8. My Dad also did not let us listen to pop music on the radio.
Well, you know me so you can judge the effect of this.
I could write a whole essay about this topic, now you've raised it, but I'll do that another time, another place.

Minx, your posting aroused several emotions in me; one of them was that on the way home from work last night I saw this headline on all the newsstands about Jamie Oliver calling parents "tossers" for feeding their children a diet consisting mainly of junk food. I have not read the papers yet this morning so I know no more than that, but I imagine this is related to childhood obesity, another nice little time bomb some parents are setting up for their kids.

As you know, I have two girls, 11 and 15. They love the internet and have no restrictions on it, TV or what they eat. Out of choice, they watch TV only rarely (eg Dr Who), they mainly use it for DVDs, and not much at that. They both read avidly, in fact at the moment Jenny won't do anything in her free time except read as she has 3 books that she's so desperate to read it is hilarious. They can eat sweets or whatever they want, but they barely do. Their favourite meal is plain pasta and they'd eat it every day if you asked them, in preference to any other choice.

I am not trying to say my children are paragons, by any means. Just agreeing with everyone that children basically copy their parents' example (when young anyway!). If the parents are sitting in front of TV turned up full all day stuffing themselves with crisps and the like, your post is a tragic indication of the outcome.

Sorry for the excessively long comment, but one final point -- I have never watched it but I think that one of the massively popular TV series that went on for years was called "THe Royle Family" where the "joke" is that the family sit in front of the TV all day eating junk food and shouting rude comments. Say no more. (I've written far too much already!)

Anonymous said...

I don't think Debi was doing anything bad by teaching her boys that there are times when you have to be quiet and respect other people's quiet time, but a lot of parents these days use the TV as a babysitter, there's absolutely no doubt about that.

I agree totally with Maxine: children learn from their parents' behaviour. Mine have very few restrictions because I've always believed in teaching them to be responsible for their own choices rather than making choices for them but I've tried to show them right and wrong by example. Obviously, I made mistakes (but then again, too few to mention, I've lived...ooops, sorry... broke into song there for a moment)... where was I?... oh yes, I've made mistakes but on the whole my kids have turned out ok.

Respect for the needs of others as well as their own (which includes turning the bloody telly off when people are trying to talk!) shouldn't be too difficult to teach.


That's really disturbing but not that surprising unfortunately.
On a related point - the TV has an increasingly important role in our society, as far as I can see, to brainwash kids into being good consumers. I was shocked to see the delay of the new Plastation Console this week (about 500 quid a shot) - until after Xmas - was reported on the BBC like it was the end of the world. When you hear things like this it feels like the end of civilisation is edging nearer. God help us - but good for you for trying to make a difference.

Unknown said...

Sharon!! You're here, you're really here - are you back?

As far as your lovely comments go, all of you, I'm afraid you are not the ones who need to debate this issue - you have already done it for yourselves, probably before your children were born!

I probably won't make a difference Monkey, but still intend to carry on fracturing skull on the wall!

Pisser about the Playstaion eh!!


Yes, tragic!

Anonymous said...

Only mother of boys could make that comment about playstation, Minx :-)

Anonymous said...

I'll be leaving this comment as 'anonymous'.

Sometimes the telly can be a child's salvation. I grew up in a very dysfunctional, violent home. Obscenities, screaming, you name it. By the age of six I learned to sit very near to the set with the volume as loud as bearable in order to drown out what was happening around me. It also taught me that there was a different way to live. I'm a quiet person today, but I have survived and you might even say thrived.

Unknown said...

Anon - I work with enough abused and neglected children to know that there is value in television. The escapism works on an adult level as well.You, thankfully climbed out of the mire, others are not as lucky.

My concerns, obviously, are the effect this is having on spoken language at a time when development is critical and there are signs that other areas of development are suffering. We are now producing children that are also...

lacking in general knowledge
have poor cognitive development
have glue ear (mild hearing loss)
bad posture
poor social skills
underdeveloped emotional skills
low self esteem
no creative intelligence

The figures are there but only time will tell!

Hel said...

Hello Minx, your story kind of reminded me of some kids i used to babysit. their mum used to stick them in front of the TV with bags of sweets to shut them up. when they didn't want to eat something healthy (e.g. veg), she would give them sweets if they ate it. their dad was hardly ever at home, and when he was there, the kids were watching kids' channels and not interacting with him. plus they kept on moving house because the parents weren't happy, so the kids got uprooted all the time... as soon as they'd settled into a school and made friends, it was time to move house again and start all over again...
so of course they had a lot of behavioural problems! the eldest was very aggressive for a few years, he calmed down after a bit and is normal now, but for a long time the youngest had problems with stuff like speech and development and he had to have loads of teeth removed because they were rotting!
Now the parents try to spend more time with the kids, talk with them, restrict how much TV they can watch, let them go outside more, feed them a better diet, haven't moved house for a couple of years, and that has all improved their behaviour.
(interestingly, this family aren't hippies/travellers or chavs... they're the most middle-class family imaginable!)
Obviously there are some great things about TV, but i think you're right that nowadays families just watch telly instead of interacting and this isn't doing kids any good. i reckon they shouldn't have these kids' channels, they should just have a few hours of kids' shows on other channels (that's what we had when i was a kid - CBBC and CITV on BBC and ITV - we didn't have the CBBC channel!), that way the amount of TV that kids watch is restricted to only a couple of hours per day. but the kids' channels are probably making loads of money so they're not going to shut down now! it's also pretty sad that parents need people to tell them that they need to talk to their kids and feed them proper food - isn't it obvious to them?!

Unknown said...

Obvious? Unfortunately not hel fire. Thanks for popping in, this post had stirred up some strong views but as I said before, I think I am preaching to the converted!