Technology is continually changing the world around us, and children are using electronic devices more than ever. As a result, even young children are mastering the iPad and other electronic devices before they even go off to school. There are certainly mixed reviews about children using electronic devices from an early age. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), speech and language delays, or other developmental delays, there are many technological advancements to help with treatment, but there are pros and cons to using these devices.
Many children have access to electronic devices in their homes, and they are frequently using devices in their classrooms, including a therapeutic preschool program. A typical preschool program is best suited for children who follow a typical developmental path, however, a therapeutic preschool program provides additional support for children who might experience developmental delays. In a therapeutic preschool, children will often receive more specialized care from a certified professional for speech-language pathology, cognition, feeding, occupational therapy, applied behavior analysis (ABA), or other key areas of development. Part of this care might involve the use of an iPad (or other type of device), depending on the specific needs of the child.
Pros of electronic devices
The functionality of phones and tablets is astounding, and it seems that there is an application (app) for everything these days! For children with autism, a related disorder, or speech and language delays, there are many incredible apps that allow children to communicate effectively with others. This is an incredibly valuable tool for children with delays in expressive language who are still developing verbal communication skills. As a result, apps such as Proloquo2Go, may be used in a therapeutic preschool program as an assistive technology tool for little ones working on their communication skills.
There are so many apps out there, and Autism Speaks has collected a list of apps (of all kinds!) that might be helpful for kiddos on the spectrum. In addition to apps for communication, there are also apps to provide visual schedules for children who have trouble following a schedule in a therapeutic preschool program. Visual supports can be great tools for little ones with autism or other developmental delays.
An iPad or tablet can also serve as a positive reinforcement tool for children in a therapeutic preschool program. For example, if a child does well sitting during circle time, they may be able to play a game on the iPad for five minutes.
Cons of electronic devices
While there are many positives of using a tablet with children, there is a time and a place to do so. Some children almost become zombies to technology, so it is important to set boundaries with devices. One way to achieve this is by setting aside a designated time in the schedule to use the tablet. By having this occur at the same time every day in a therapeutic preschool program, this sets an expectation for when it is appropriate to use the tablet during the day.
Excessive screen time can also be overstimulating for children, particularly for children with autism and/or issues with sensory processing in a therapeutic preschool program. As a result, parents, teachers, and therapists should all try to create some time limits for screen time, particularly close to bedtime.
Also, according to a study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, spending too much time staring at a screen can impair the ability of a child to read the emotions of other people. If children on the autism spectrum already experience challenges with this social skill, it is especially important for their parents, teachers, and therapists to be mindful of the amount of time their child is spending in front of a screen each day, both at home and in their therapeutic preschool program.
If you think your child would benefit from the support of a therapeutic preschool program in Chicago, click the purple button below or contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 to learn more about our extensive services for children.