By Abha Ranjan Khanna
I was recently listening to a speech therapy podcast where it was mentioned that social communication disorders were being diagnosed much more frequently than ever before. This is true. Social Communication Disorder (SCD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Pseudo Autism are now commonly diagnosed with one in every 125 children being identified positively.
Social Communication Disorder first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) in 2013. Before 2013, children exhibiting difficulties with communication and social interactions were commonly diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Typically, children diagnosed with SCD display a delay in reaching language milestones and a low interest in social interactions.
One reason determined as a possible cause for Social Communication Disorders is early and prolonged exposure to screen time. Given the current social climate and circumstances where nuclear families with working parents is becoming a norm and there is decreasing extended family support, parents are relying more and more on screen time. Screen time before the age of two can impede the development of the brain.
Here are suggestions on play activities with your toddler so that screen time can be completely eliminated.
1. Listen to music and sway with the rhythm; hide beads and small plastic animals in play dough and find them together. Play “Splash Splash” while bathing every day; cook together — give your toddler small balls of kneaded atta while you both make chappatis; pretend and play dress up – like a doctor, policeman, dancer etc.
2. Go for a nature walk discovery; tell short stories; fill a basket with books and read, read, read together. Make soap bubbles and chase them and pop them; make music with household items; doodle with smelly markers on recyclable cardboard; water the plants together and go find fireflies.
3. Play doctor with dolls; take a walk and hunt for colours; play with puzzles; look at family photos together; build a fort with pillows and sheets; swing on every swing on the play- ground; play eye – spy with things around the house and with favourite books; eat lunch outside in a park.
4. Play together in a box; play Simon Says; make a balance beam with a row of bricks and do many activities on it; make an obstacle course and take turns going through it; play sports in the yard; go swimming; paint with water colours; create art on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk.
5. Play with stickers; settle the cupboards; help clean and play dentist with dolls. Play and enjoy the toddler years — just NO screen time!
(The writer is an occupational therapist.)