May is Better Hearing and Speech Month and the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) has provided resources for parents of students receiving speech and language services.
Given social distancing regulations (or more accurately, physical distancing), people of all ages are challenged to find alternative ways to connect socially. For children with language disorders, who already struggle with social interactions even in the best of times, maintaining physical distance can be very challenging.
The Stay at Home mandate has encouraged people to find creative ways to extend and strengthen social bonds. Video platforms are being used for playdates, happy hours, meetings, celebrations, fitness classes, attending art/music lessons, and more. In addition, social media and texting provide a platform to share relatable memes and jokes. While it has been a fairly easy transition for the majority, children with language disorders may not be able to adapt as quickly as others.
ASHA provides the following 10 tips for parents to help their child interact socially during this time:
- Screen time: Screen usage will likely increase while we are sheltering at home. You may have heard some research shows screen time can lead to speech and language delays in children. However, TV shows, movies, and social media can be a way to optimize social interaction. When possible, make screen time interactive by watching shows/movies together and discuss them. For example, you could ask about their favorite character, make predictions about what will happen next, or ask why the show/movie ended that way. You can also ask them to show you their Minecraft world, ask how to play their favorite video game, or show you their favorite TikToks.
- Conversation opportunities: Conversation opportunities can occur in everyday tasks such as cooking/food preparation (e.g. follow a sequence of steps) or traditional activities like board games which offer a chance to talk about rules and turn-taking.
- Reading: Reading doesn’t always have to be a solitary activity. Families can read to each other and find a wide range of books online. Young children can play rhyming and word games. Parents can ask older children questions to guide their understanding such as, what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of story, what was the main plot, and what motivated each character.
- Being with friends and family: Communicating with friends and extended family is crucial at this time. Children with language disorders may have more difficulty with communicated via phone and FaceTime/Zoom. Parents can help by practicing conversations in advance, suggesting topics and related responses, and involving siblings by discussing ways the can help their brother/sister who has a language disorder.
- Understanding changes: For children with language comprehension and production difficulties, changes in daily routines may be more challenging. Its important for parents to define new vocabulary words (e.g. coronavirus, social distancing, quarantine, etc.) and can explain routine changes. Parents can establish a new routine and involve their child in decision making by asking when they’d like to call grandma, which friend they’d like to talk to, and what food they might want.
- Creativity: Dance, music, art, and other classes are now virtual and offer a great opportunity to maintain a connection with their teachers and friends. Online tutorials for drawing, cooking/baking, and more are readily available. Without a computer, children can practice language skills by picking out items around the house and creating their own store, planning indoor camping night, planning/planting a garden, or organizing a scavenger hunt.
- Physical activity: Personal trainers, video workouts, and websites such as Go Noodle are great to maintain daily physical activity. Parents and children can use these activities to bond together and provide opportunities for conversation (e.g. different types of exercises, healthy eating, the connection between physical activity and wellness). Or the whole family can take up a new form of exercise and learn it together (e.g. yoga, tai chi).
- Humor: Humor really is our saving grace, and it helps keep us psychologically healthy. Many people have been sharing funny COVID-19 memes and videos to ease tension and connect with others. Unfortunately, children with language disorders tend to miss the nuances of humor. Parents can help them by talking through jokes and explaining why they are funny.
- Organizing: Some families are working on decluttering and organizing projects that have been on the back burner for awhile. These projects can provide opportunities for language lessons. Parents can ask questions like, what items go together? Do you remember when you wore that outfit? Will you play with these toys anymore?
- Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC): Some children with language disorders use AAC to help them communicate. Parents should make sure their children are using their AAC devices at home, at all times. AAC isn’t just for school!
Although this is a difficult time, parents can help children with language disorders keep a safe physical distance without losing social nearness that is so critical to their development.
If you find your child is still struggling despite your efforts, or you feel they need additional supports, head over to our website for a free consultation! For the last ten years, Worldwide Speech has provided online speech and language services, reading intervention, special education, online tutoring, and occupational therapy to children across the globe. This means we are well prepared to help you and your child through this challenging time.