How much screen time (computer, TV/movies, iPod/iPhone/iPad) do you let your SN child(ren) have?
Read on if you're curious why I'm asking.
My 4 year old DD is a brain cancer survivor and has lots of issues - among them: language disorder (most resembles the kind of aphasia that can happen after a stroke), developmental delays, probably post-traumatic stress. And a stubbornly independent streak to boot.
She is not very interested in social interactions. Only sometimes and only with a few people she knows really well.
She STRONGLY prefers interacting with a screen (iPod touch, computer). As in: playing games and interacting with what's happening on the screen (not as in using the screen to communicate with other humans in real life).
She is at high risk for and/or already has cognitive/intellectual disabilities. She seems to actually learn a lot from screen time (she can operate the trackpad mouse on a laptop and visits poissonrouge.com, starfall.com, kneebouncers.com and is just now exploring pbskids.org). She replays things over and over and over again and then later I hear her vocalizing what she's seen on the screen. I do think in her case screen time is beneficial since she can control the amount of repetitions and explore what interests her, especially since she is loathe to follow another person's lead. It is very hard to engage her in face-to-face games and interactions and even harder to hold her interest for more than a few minutes.
I am in the habit of limiting my older, neuro-typical DS's screen time to a max of 1 hr per day (and even that feels like too much). But with DD, I find myself letting her have a lot more screen time than her brother gets. I work out of the home and during the day she attends special ed preschool and special ed daycare. She only gets screen time in the evenings and on weekends, but I still feel... uneasy about the amount of screen time she gets at home. I'm not sure if the extra screen time is an appropriate accommodation (given her discomfort with social interactions, her struggles with language & communication, and her processing delays) OR if I'm just not trying hard enough to engage her in interesting interactions with real-life people. Which comes first: language competence or interest in socializing? And what's the best way to foster both?
Mine has a clear addictive issue with electronics so trying to balance the time is a serious issue in my house that we can't slack off on without paying the price. So I don't really treat him any differently than I treated my NT foster children (preteens). They all had(/have) VERY limited screen time (usually 30mins/day--occasionally 60 split between am & pm and we are testing an hour of educational computer time with ds).
Maybe she could spend her evening screen time doing some activities with you/your family that would ease her into liking social interactions and practice her communication skills at home with people who love her and won't criticize her as quickly as the outside world...? We had a foster daughter that was presumed to have selective mutism and didn't. But she had a much easier time learning her social and communication skills at home where she didn't feel like she was under a microscope and didn't have to worry about people making fun of her or correcting her harshly. But she was also a little older than yours (8yo). Just a thought. :)
Heather - Wife , Mommy & Health & Wellness Educator, Speaker & Consultant
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I HATE that my Asperger's/Anxiety/SPD child needs a screen ALL THE TIME. If the TV gets turned off he panics. Literally panics. I TRY to limit his video game time, I had been slacking off for a while till I realized he hadn't been doing ANYTHING else lately. So we are back to a ticket system (30 min tickets limit of 2 on school days) but the TV just can't be limited with him. Even his counselor feels it would be detrimental to him, and to our family because his panic attacks include hitting us. He started needing the tv when he was 3.5 and gave up nursing. He has no ability to regulate or self soothe. He was interested in the tv when he was little little but it wasn't till he weaned that he couldn't live without it. Nothing we tried to substitute worked. We tried books on tape, the radio, loveys, mama and daddy time nothing worked. He can not sleep without the tv on either. If I shut it off after he's asleep he wakes up and won't go back to sleep.
But with my NT child things WILL be different. She is only 8 months old right now, but she has showed no interest in the tv (unlike DS who had an interest in screens from a very very young age) and I don't run it all day while he's at school and don't let him watch it with her in the room, he has to go to another room to watch it. I will NOT reinforce that behavior in her.
We do tons of screen time with our SN DD. She, like your daughter, is high risk for cognitive delays. The neurodevelopmental program we do with her has taught us to rethink our perception of TV. It is amazing at trapping attention in little ones, so if you fill it with output you want the kids to pick up, it if often a powerful facilitator. We do a lot of learning based activities and shows on the TV, and you know what? I feel okay with it. It is CLEARLY helping her. She really learns from the TV, (ipad) in ways she does not by interacting with her environment. My DS would learn and pick things up very easily, just by existing. We didn't even let him look at a TV before 2. My DD needs to be taught everything she learns, she picks it up well and quickly, but only once taught. I think that difference is what made me give up my preconceived notions of being so against the TV. The only downfall, I feel, is that we allow DS a little more than I would like just so he doesn't feel slighted.