By Puja Kapoor
In this unprecedented time of lockdown, due to COVID 19, we are facing unique concerns. A new normal of social distancing has been set, which has forced us to remain in the confines of our houses. There is no social interaction due to lack of outings in the park, to the neighbourhood, to a friend’s house. This is taking a toll on us both mentally and emotionally. We, as adults, have higher capacity to adjust to the rapid practice of precluding ourselves physically from the outer environment but for children it is acting as a catastrophe, especially for special needs children who love stereotypies and abhor any instant change in the environment/daily routine.
Here are few tips to help our uniquely-abled kids to develop language skills in the confines of one’s home.
Talk, talk, talk
For the child to talk, he should see others in the family also doing the same. Children build up their vocabulary by imitating whatever they hear from the environment. If the environment is non-stimulating, the speech and language expression is hampered. For the same reason, with children who have a diagnosis of expressive speech delay, who have good attention and observation, we tell the parents to put them in a kindergarten.
Start from the starting point
If your child only babbles, and has not started with the bi-syllables, start using “ba-ba”, “ma-ma”, ta-ta”. If he has achieved a few words, add to his vocabulary by using new words everyday and pointing towards it. Repetition of these words will get his attention and it will get added to his vocabulary. Pictures can also be used to name the object. It is advisable not to use too many words in a day, or usage in a sentence as this will make it confusing for him to imbibe. It is only after the child starts speaking a few words, two words joining could be used. For e.g., give me, take this, go there, come here, etc. The attention of the child is of prime importance in the acquiring of speech. If there is no eye contact during the conversation, then first, the attention has to be gained by occupational therapy, else the efforts will go futile.
Technology has to be used
Do video calls to all your relatives and friends who could talk to your child. Set fixed times for the calls, and do it multiple times throughout the day. The child will get into his schedule and he will talk to a particular relative/friend at a particular time. This is very important as due to lockdown the regular social interaction has gone done dramatically, and this is causing a regression in the social and speech milestones of the child.
Don’t get used by technology
Don’t use screentime as a pacifier or a way to kill his time. The more the screentime, the lesser the chances of having a contextually talking child. He may learn poems and alphabets from the screen, but he will not learn socialising from it. It is the human to human interaction which initiates speech and language and the normal way of interacting.
Capture his best mood
Most of the children love water and enjoy bathing. If your child has a likeness for water, use this time to teach him speech or do some activity. You can do pressure exercises during bathing and sing rhymes, or use new words for his attention. Here, both tactile, pressure, auditory senses could be exploited to get the maximum from the effort. Similarly, different opportunities have to be grabbed to get the maximum out of that moment.
(The writer is the co- founder of Continua Kids, and a pediatric neurologist)
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