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  • Writer's pictureAlison McDonald

Do iPads Cause Speech and Language Delays in Toddlers?

Do iPads Cause Speech and Language Delays in Toddlers?

Recently I came across an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph titled “Not-so-smart parenting”. The article addressed the possible effects on learning of children who spend too much time with technology. The article by Bruce McDougall quoted statistics indicating that 18% of inner Sydney kindergarten children require Speech Pathology services. As a Speech Pathologist I am often asked my thoughts on technology and how it is shaping our children’s development. Firstly I am a huge fan of iPads and the like, and believe that they offer us new and exciting ways of delivering therapy. They certainly offer our children new ways of learning and interacting with the world. However we need to remember that these technologies are merely devices, and the quality of an app is only as good as the person who has designed it. Many skills including developing working memory, learning basic concepts (e.g. size, shape, colour) and letters and numbers can be taught through technology. However, our children need so much more. Nuances in speech and language – the essence of communication – can only be learned through real interpersonal communication. Our children will learn how to interact with others ONLY by watching real human interactions. When you involve your child in the day-to-day world they have the opportunity to learn so much more about relationships, how to listen and how to ask intelligent questions. This kind of learning can never be replaced by technology. Taking the time to talk to your child is time well invested. This will begin to shape how your child thinks and feels, and teaches them that they are valuable individuals. You will develop their curiosity and teach them how to learn. I bet you didn’t realize just how important your conversations are!

Here are a few tips for having a conversation with your child:

• Enter your child’s world. Take an interest in what he is interested in.

• Ask her questions about what she is doing, thinking and feeling. Your aim is not to quiz her but to engage with her interests.

• Talk to your child while you are doing daily activities. Hanging out the washing, cleaning up the spilled milk or driving in the car can be a great time of conversation.

• Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh together. Often.

• Keep a notebook to record some of the funny things you child says. This will keep you amused and give you something to reminisce about when your ‘small person’ seems all grown up. (Our family still calls ‘decorations’ “deca ations”, a legacy of one of our ‘small people’)

• Take time to talk together when you are out of the house. Before you hand over the iPad so you can have some ‘adult time’, stop and have a conversation about where you are, what you can see, what is happening around you.

• Why not consider having one “screen-free” day a week in your home. You’ll be amazed at what else your children find to do with their time. You could reward yourselves with a family movie at the end of the day.

As a Speech Pathologist am I worried about this technology trend? Well if parents are sensible with ‘screen time’, and there are plenty of conversations flowing in the family then go ahead and download your favourite apps. If truth be told, the statistics quoted in the article are quite accurate and have been for many years. Traditionally an average of one in five children (20%) require Speech Pathology intervention. If you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development, contact Newcastle Speech Pathology for a personalised, professional approach to your child’s needs.

Written by Alison Speech Pathologist Newcastle Speech Pathology

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