Going unplugged

Have you ever unplugged everything?  Or just felt like it?  Obviously not the fridge or the washing machine, I'm talking about the telly and the consoles and the broadband.

I would love to do that, I really would.

Perhaps you dream of hazy summer days playing cricket in the garden and chilly winter nights gathered around the Monopoly board by the fire.  And d'you know what?  That was my childhood.

But it's not my children's childhood.

As in so many other households, my kids are glued to their screens, and it takes a lot of temptation or persuasion to drag them away.

When they were younger, it was the TV, and I would have happily have got rid of it, just as my parents did.  Even though I know the consequences of being different to other children, because that is the downside.   But I was outnumbered.

Then it was the Nintendo DS, then the Playstation, the laptop, and more and more and more.

It's a universal worry, but at least most children have some other outlets: they play sport, or go to dance clubs, or scouts, or just simply hang out with their friends.  Children on the autism spectrum develop obsessions, and these days their obsession are often video games. So one of the standard prescriptions from the "professionals" is to limit their access to games and the internet.  Easier said than done, of course.

But I do know of many families who claim to do that.  Who work through the consequences and come out the other side.  They all say that family life is much better as a result: calmer children, more interaction, more healthy activities.  It sounds wonderful doesn't it?

However every family is different and so is every child, and here the big switch off has been christened the "nuclear option", and not by me.

The biggest danger of using the nuclear option is that you're turning your wish for your child to spend less time on the internet into the ultimate battle of wills.  That you as a parent have to win.  And that is a dangerous situation.  Because some children on the spectrum will not let anyone win.  No matter what you do, they will find a way to beat you.  They can hold out longer than you can, because they know your weak points.  They know you have to sleep, to care for the other children in the house, go to work, whatever.   And switching off the internet is also likely to be seen as the ultimate punishment, and how is the child to understand this if they believe that they have done nothing wrong?  What might this do to the parent/child relationship?

The if the autistic kid is bigger and stronger than their parents, you're in trouble before you even start.

And what if everyone is so worn down by meltdowns that they cannot face introducing new rules that they know will just cause more.

Then there's the other children in the family who may not be at all supportive of having their internet access taken away.

What will the child do instead? I did an entirely unscientific survey of my Facebook friends recently on this topic.  Almost all of them confirmed that their non sporty sons and daughter spent most of their teenage years holed up in their bedrooms on the internet.

So perhaps it's better to leave things be.  Isn't a peaceful house a much better place for everyone?

I expect you can guess that I've chosen not to go unplugged in this house.  Have you?


  1. I honestly could not imagine going unplugged here for any length of time. I could force that decision on my eldest who is not autistic, and she would hate it but learn to live with it. However our autistic girl would not accept it and life would be unbearable ( might sound over-dramatic but as a parent you just know). I'm actually grateful that the internet has taught our youngest lots of things, even the Minecraft obsession has some good sides to it. It's all about channelling that knowledge when you get the opportunity I think ;)

    1. No it doesn't sound over dramatic: I fear it would be the same here :)

  2. I couldn't do it... Zack would constantly whine, Max would scream the house down, and I wouldn't get an ounce of peace! Not a chance I could cope with that. No way, no how.
    Besides, I'm addicted to the internet, and I'm totally fine... *cough* ;)

  3. I was just trying to remember what it was like today - those days before internet. There was more and better telly for a start. But also evenings sitting at home (with or without the telly or a book) sewing or baking, and not knowing what anyone else was doing. People say that fb can make you depressed when you see your friends supposedly wonderful lives but I remember imagining that everyone was somewhere out together and I'd not been invited. Much worse imo.

    As for not rocking the boat - as you say the alternative to being at the computer is a tantrum not being out playing footy with your friends. Let it go.

  4. I can't really imagine living without the internet... My kids are a lot younger than yours, so I don't have that problem just yet, but my eldest, Ciaran, who has autism, is like a zombie in front of the TV or the tablet. Since school has started there's no TV or tablet allowed during the week. It's harder for me because Ethan ( the youngest) doesn't have a problem and I feel sometimes it's unfair to forbid him to watch TV just because I don't want Ciaran to turn into zombie mode! I am lucky in the sense that Ciaran is quite laid back and doesn't throw tantrums that much. One of his issue is repeating everything that comes out of the TV, out of context and unfortunately the only solution is to cut it out as much as we can. I'm exhausted but I feel it will be worth it in the end. Sometimes I just give in though, when I'm too tired and they're getting on my nerves ( usually by Thursday I can't take it any more!)
    Everyone is different, every family has different issues, so really, don't blame yourself because we're not perfect, we're just trying to do as best as we can for our kids.

    1. I wonder does it help (a teeny bit) when the autistic child is the oldest? My NT daughter (now 21) would be pretty annoyed if the internet went down, and there's no way of explaining to Smiley why she can't use the iPad, never mind my son's likely reaction. All in all, I'm pretty caught :)

  5. Well, as you know I do a bit of limiting here. In the main it kinda works, but it is very, very hard work. Nearly, but obviously not quite, as wearing as tantrums. Then there are days when there's a lot of anger and like you say you're locked in this parent/child face-off. The problem I really have is that some of the reasons it should be limited is to allow them get some exercise and to interact with others. I agree, that's good. But no teen, let alone an ASD/Aspie teen, wants to hang out with their parents and besides, all their friends are in the damn xbox!! xx

    1. It feels like an impossible situation doesn't it?

      As you know I really admire your strength and what you do achieve, but I've realised that I can't do the same thing here xx