Thursday, January 11, 2018

Therapy Tip: #1 Thing to Avoid for Toddlers

It's Thursday! Time for another speech therapy tip. This is the day that I share a tip or piece of advice as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and the mother of a child with special needs. Today's tip is:

The 1 Thing You Should Avoid While Your Child is Learning Language

Today, I will get on my soapbox. I've been an in-home therapist for over 10 years now, and I have certainly seen a trend developing. Electronics have long been part of the adult world for some time now. But, I see babies and toddlers being introduced to smart phones and tablets more and more often.
There are guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Basically, there should be no screen time for children 18 months and younger. No videos, movies, games, etc. on televisions, smart phones, tablets, or other devices. None unless you are video chatting with a person.

For those 18-24 months, children are allowed some screen time as long as it's educational in nature and the parents are nearby to remark on what the child is seeing.

For preschool aged children, an hour of screen time is allowed if it's educational and parents are nearby again to teach the child how to apply what they are watching and learning.
Click here to read more about these guidelines.

I know what you are thinking. These recommendations are strict and not practical. I get it. I'm not saying you need to follow these guidelines exactly. However, too much screen time early on should be considered bad, especially if the child has a language delay. I have been in too many homes for a speech therapy session where toddlers have easy and frequent access to their parent's phone, tablet, and/or television. Many parents see these devices as a positive thing that will help their child hear and learn language, but the opposite is true.

Children learn language from people and play. Period! Children learn best from a language rich environment that happens when a person talks and plays with them. Playing with your child with actual toys is the best way to help your child with and without language delays.

The benefits of play have well been documented in research. In play, a child works on developing fine and gross motor skills. They also work on imitation, problem solving skills, imagination, creativity, language, and cause-and-effect. Sure, apps and videos can do some of these same things, but trust me when I say this: Children need to learn language from people and through play!

Screen time is no substitute for your child engaging with another person. Screens provide entertainment that is rich visually and auditory, so they are easy for children to enjoy and love. But, they can also cause children to "check out" as they focus on the screen and ignore the world around them. 

If your baby or toddler has screen time for more than an hour a day, you need to reduce it! If your child obsesses over an app or a movie, then it's time to readjust routines to break that obsessions. If your child ignores their toys or doesn't use them appropriately (throws or holds them only), then they need more time playing with another adult showing them how to play (and how it can be fun!). This is all especially true if your child is showing some delays in language or has been enrolled in speech therapy.

Devices have their place, but their place should not be in front of your toddler all day long! Making changes is hard, but this change is critical to help your child's skills grow and flourish.

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.

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