Each May, Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) provides an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and role of ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association) members in providing life-altering treatment.
For 2016, ASHA’s theme is “Communication Takes Care.” A survey completed by ASHA in 2015 of 1000 parents of children 0-8, found that 68% of two-year olds use tablets, 44% of 6 year olds would rather play on a technology device than read a book, and 50% or parents of 8 year olds rely on technology to prevent behavior problems. WHAT? WHY? WOW!!!
Don’t get me wrong- I love technology and all the great things we can do with our Ipads and tablets, but what are we doing to our children. Let’s all remember that brain development is most significant from birth to 3. Overuse of technology is showing increased hearing loss, decline in social skill development, lack of conversation skills, and delays in speech and language development. How many of us are quick to take out the tablets or iphones at dinner or in a restaurant or worse, give them to our children during this time? What happened to conversations? What happened to the “What was the best and worst thing about your day?” When did technology become this wall we put up to avoid conversation?
As parents and caregivers, we are the facilitators of our children’s language development. Verbal communication is the primary way young children learn. I know as a working mom, I am tired at the end of the day and am constantly tempted by the technology around me. I am also constantly trying to think of creative ways to engage my children in conversation and language based activities. Here are a few of my favorite recommendations to parents who ask on ways to increase language skills with their children.
1. Bath time-I think bath time is such a great opportunity for language facilitation. With water beads, paints, letter and number cut outs, and markers the possibilities are endless for counting, sound, letter, and name recognition, body part recognition, and sequencing.
2. Outdoor play-. Go to the park, take a walk, play in the sandbox, play kick ball. Whatever gets you both moving and TALKING. Name the things you see, tell them stories about your own childhood, identify and teach them about unfamiliar things.
3. Reading- Read to your children everywhere you go. Grocery stores, restaurants, shopping centers. Any opportunity you have to read to your child and teach them sound/letter recognition/awareness, take it!
4. Cooking-Use this time as an opportunity to teach your child safety skills in the kitchen and how to clean up messes. Use this as an opportunity to test your own patience. Cooking with your child also encourages reading, science and math and is a great way to introduce other life skills.
5. Meal Time- I strongly encourage families to eat together at meal times. Talk about your daily and upcoming events. Use this as a time to discuss family and school issues that may be bothering your child.
6. Game time- No, I don’t mean Minecraft. Actual games like hide and seek or board games that encourage talking, turn taking and good sportsmanship.
Challenge yourself and encourage others to replace or at least cut down technology time and focus on other activities to engage with our children.
For more information on language norms and development, information on the survey discussed above, where to find an SLP in your area, and more please visit www.asha.org.