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BY Sara

Effective screen time for your child with special needs

Effective Screen TimeIn today’s world we all decompress in front of our screen of choice – Whether it’s texting on our phones or cheering on our favorite football team we all need to detach for a moment (or longer) in order to take .

For many kids with special needs, screen time is almost always associated with stimming, gaming, or therapy; a lot of kids have patterns of behavior that is associated with technology and can become rigid in their interaction with it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Considering how comfortable kids are with computers and other devices, it seems to me, that if presented a little differently, they can actually be at their most available to connect and learn. Lots of schools are figuring this out and infusing their curriculum with different software programs, but what can we do at home?

Here are a few ideas to shake up our kids’ relationships with the almighty screen (have you ever counted how many you have in your house?) and show our kids it is actually possible for them to learn something new:

Make a photo book

Photo BooksA few years ago, I made a photo book for my nephew. I used a bunch of old images of him growing up and put really tangible thoughts about events and milestones in his life. He absolutely loved it.

Now he makes his own, but am I am the gatekeeper to the all of the photos. If he wants to find the latest family photos, he needs my help (and permission) to find them.

Depending on how much time he feels like spending with me (he is a tweenager after all!) I can elongate this experience by showing him editing tools or other augmentations.

Most of this can be done with very little actually being said (which is always a good thing for us) Through our non-verbal reactions to what we see on the screen, we’re experiencing something together sharing our perspective.

Some of the more popular photo book sites are: Shutterfly, Snapfish, Blurb, Mixbook, Apple or your local drugstore (CVS, Walgreens, etc..)

Make a Playlist

Music PlaylistUntil yesterday, my son thought music magically appeared on our family ipod – poof!

But when we were able to go through our music library and see the grid of albums, he was able to sample songs and share ideas, we made a playlist together and had so much fun.

The best part is, the music speaks for itself. Sharing it together put both of us in a calm and regulated state. And because music connects emotionally, we were learning about each other without having to talk about it.

Film Making

FilmmakingVideo is such a powerfully emotive tool.  Making them and posting them is a long process, so for some kids, you can backward chain it.

First, just post one you’ve made to you tube so your child can see the final result. Then make one together and post it. All the way along, you can show your child what is important to consider in the process.

Once this five-minute activity is going strong, you can lengthen the connected time together by augmenting it with script writing, costumes etc. Get creative!

Slow down and delay your responses. I’ve learned through RDI, the connection is in the anticipation and productive uncertainty of it all.

The Bottom Line

It’s hard not to feel behind with technology moving so fast and our kids so far ahead of us. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not just about the response or result of what we see on the screen, but the process that gets us there.

One of the reasons we built SquagTM the way we did, was so that parents and kids could adopt it together, and find a new and exciting way to communicate.

We get really excited when we hear from our testers that kids are self-reflecting, building ideas about themselves and sharing them with their parents in a completely different way.

So start small. Build a framework you can come back to. And open up a new way to interact with technology that isn’t gaming and isn’t therapy, but a mindful, connected, meaningful experience.

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Written on January 24, 2012 by:

Sara Winter is a mom of two boys and the founder of a recreational application for kids with autism to connect with one another.

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