I try often to figure out why Janey (and other kids with autism) get so consumed by videos. Other kids like videos, but I don't think most kids completely live in them like Janey or her compadres do. I know a lot of it is predictability. She knows what will be said next---it's not like the real world where people can say or do anything out of the blue. It's also music, for Janey---I think she'd love to live in a world of real life musicals, where people burst into song and dance numbers occasionally. But I also think the movies and videos give her a way to understand emotions, and to prepare for them. There are parts of both movies that scare her. When those parts are about to happen, she usually runs over to me and says "Snuggle on Mama's bed!" I've figured out she doesn't really care if I don't get on the bed and snuggle with her. It's just a way of telling me that she is upset. And it's not, in these cases, truly upset. It's an anticipation of being scared, a very controllable one. She seems to be working on a way to deal with the scared emotions.
I try to use the videos to draw her into our regular world. Yesterday at a thrift store I found a Little Mermaid shirt for her. I showed it to her and she was so excited. She often doesn't notice what she is wearing much, but this morning she asked for the shirt (I hadn't washed it yet, but I'm getting right on that!) Other girls like The Little Mermaid (although she's a little out of date with it), so I am thinking it could be a Halloween costume, or a source of toys. It's something she can share with the larger world.
And, if I might be totally frank, it keeps her happy. It can be near impossible to keep Janey happy all day. She is not interested in toys, most of the time, she will listen to me read to her only about a book a day, she doesn't entertain herself at all, except in odd ways like biting on things. So having her watch a movie is a way to keep her mind from completely being off-line in her own world, and it allows us a few minutes to regroup, do some housework, spend a little time with the boys, while still keeping Janey in view. And although I started motherhood as the kind of parent determined TV would play a very small role in my childrens' lives---there would not be time with all our creative block play, read-aloud marathon sessions, art projects and the like---I have been worn down by Janey. If she is happy, I am happy. I doubt many people could take as much as a day with Janey without reaching the same conclusion.
So, Ariel and the gang of Care Bears---live long and prosper.