Is your child getting stuck on electronics?
- Recognize how your child is using the device. Is he or she using it functionally by exploring the games and apps in a variety of ways? Or, is the child repeating a certain action or set of actions over and over again to achieve the same result? The latter could be a type of self-stimulatory behavior, and limits the child from learning from and enjoying all that the device has to offer. To ensure that your child is using the device functionally, use the device with your child. Supervise closely and engage with the child to play games, participate in learning apps and sharing enjoyment in the activities.
- Establish a turn-taking routine with your child. If your child already has difficulty giving up the device, start with an app or game they've never seen before; this will help you avoid any history your child has with apps he/she has played before. Start the app and show them how to play, engaging them with the activity during your turn. If your child shows interest, let them play but keep control of the device. If your child does not show any interest, try a different app until you find one they are motivated to play. Once you find one, take turns engaging. If the child has no trouble allowing you to take a turn, take a quick one and give it back to them. If they have difficulty sharing a turn and display any disruptive behaviors, be sure to wait until they calm down before allowing them to have another turn. If they deviate from using the device functionally (e.g., start pushing the same button repeatedly), encourage them to do something else within the game by prompting them to do something you modeled during your turn. If they continue to use the iPad in a non-functional way, interrupt and take your turn, switching apps if necessary. If the child has extreme difficulty sharing the device and using it together, put the device away and try again later. It can be helpful to practice this many times throughout the day. Once the child is tolerating taking turns with a less preferred app, practice taking turns with an app they have played previously and you know they enjoy. The goals are for the child to learn how to engage with a variety of apps in a functional way, to tolerate separation from the activity and to engage with you while playing.
- Use timers and to make your child aware that the time with the device is almost up (e.g., "You have 5 more minutes with the iPad and then it's time to eat" or "It's almost time to put the iPad away, here's the timer"). When your child's time with the device is finished, consider redirecting him or her to another activity or give a choice for two other activities. "Time to put away the iPad. Do you want to play with your blocks or jump on the trampoline," or "iPad time is finished, time to eat". Keep in mind, your warnings about the remaining time and your redirection at the end of the activity should be appropriate to your child's level of communication. If you typically use pictures or signs with your child, keep the manner of communication consistent.
- What about those times where giving your child the device is allowing you to take a break or get one of your million daily tasks done? During these times, supervise the child as best you can and let them play a game that you know he or she can explore and play with functionally. For those using iPads or iPhones: look into their Guided Access feature. This allows you to lock the device into one game or app and requires a passcode to switch between apps.
- Each child is different and their interest in electronic devices, as well as their ability to benefit and learn from them will vary. Being proactive and involved in your child's time with electronics can help them acquire the skills needed to access all of the engaging and educational content available now and to develop skills that increase their ability to access and participate in our increasingly technological world.
For those interested, Autism Speaks' website has a helpful list of apps recommended for individuals with autism. Their list specifies the category, device/platform, age and supporting research for each app!
This blog post was adapted from a post shared by Different Roads to Learning. Check out their blog for more tips and resources.