3 Ways to Turn Your Quarantine Activities into Speech and Language Therapy
1. HIDE THE QUARANTINE SNACKS (For children who are non-verbal or have limited verbal skills)
- This is not just a way to prevent eating three weeks worth of snacks in a day — hiding the snacks or keeping preferred toys, etc. out of reach is a way to help children learn to communicate. The environment can play a role in whether a child develops a need to communicate through speech or language (Kaiser et al, 2000). Children need motivation to use language. Imagine winning the lottery -- I probably wouldn’t do any work, would you? In the same way, if a child’s needs are always met without needing to talk, they won’t be motivated to use language to meet their needs. Here are some tips:
- Keep the snacks, toys, and games out of reach or locked up. Require some form of communication (speech, sign, or gesture) before allowing them to have preferred items. Check out the prompting hierarchy for some more information about how best to support communication skills:You can use an app like InnerVoice to use as a language model for requesting:
2. INTERACTING ON THE IPAD (For children working on expanding their emerging verbal skills)
– While your child is at home spending his quarantine hours on the tablet or a video game, you can still use this as an opportunity for communicative interaction! As much as you can, be there with your child when he is playing games. Language thrives in social interaction, ESPECIALLY with the caregiver. When you are attending to the same thing, interacting, and providing rich language input, your child is learning. (Kuhl, 2010). Toca Boca games, for example, are great because they allow you to add in all kinds of language. HOWEVER, if you are not there to add the language in, the child is not receiving any meaningful language input. Here are
some tips for the next three weeks
- Practice Parallel talk, or commenting on anything you or the child are doing (e.g. “Look, I’m cooking the vegetables,” or “Look, you just blew up that zombie village”)
Pro Tip: make sure to turn on guided access (google how to turn on guided access when using a tablet) to lock your child into whichever app you want him to use. This will encourage focus, learning, and will help prevent a waning attention span.
3. NARRATING NETFLIX (For children who have solid verbal skills, but are struggling with language organization)
- Given the current lockdown, Netflix has seen an incredible increase in the number of viewers. Just like interacting with the iPad, binging on Netflix doesn’t have to mean that you should all go off into your separate worlds — it's actually another great opportunity to increase your child's language skills.
- Practice Sequencing, or putting events that happen in order by occurrence. This can be as simple as using first, x happened, second, y happened, and third, z happened. Working on sequencing things that happen in a movie or a show is essential for helping kids accurately describe things that happen to them during school, etc. Understanding time concepts doesn’t emerge on its own; it is partly developed through learning and using language about time.
Final tips and warnings — Excessive screen time on mobile devices can interfere with some children’s ability to notice, attend to, and imitate speech and language in their home environments. Additionally, scrolling through content -- or consistently changing what they’re looking at from moment to moment -- on a mobile device may interfere with a child’s ability to attend to speech, language, and social behavior in their home environment. (APA, 2017).
Remember: Even during quarantine, any steps you take now to support your child’s speech and language will have a great impact on your child’s future. Use your position as a parent to help ensure that your child can be the best that they can be!