By: Gretta Martinez
Childcare and education have been in my family’s DNA for three generations. Throughout our combined 50 years of experience, we have never seen the prevalence of Speech Delay Disorders to the levels seen today.
When I entered the childcare business over 17 years ago with the birth of my third child, I would occasionally come across a case of child speech delay related disorder. Over a decade ago I would encounter 2 or 3 speech delay issues per hundred students.
However, in recent times these cases have increased significantly to the point that approximately 50% of the children provided childcare have a speech and social skill delay. As a childcare administrator I am placed in the front lines when it comes to bringing our observations to the parents.
At first, many parents enter a period of denial and non-acceptance of their child’s condition. Many move around from childcare facility to another or change pediatricians because they deny the situation that they face. My main theory for this recent speech delay crises is due to the overuse of computer devices such as cellphones and tablets.
The fact is that it is more convenient for parents and caregivers to give a child a tablet or cell phone to keep them entertained or to pacify their energy and place them in a passive trance. While this option may be convenient, is it causing significant impediments in a child’s speech development and social interaction skills that are necessary for early education.
My recommendation based on my experience is not to give children under 4 years of age, cell phones or tablets as entertainment and rather talk to them looking at them so that the child can see how you move your lips and mouth when speaking and thus copy and repeat sounding out the words. It is also important to stimulate the child with any object like when we say spoon and show them the spoon, it is incredible how immediately the child associate the object and the words begin to flow.
Many place the blame on lacking early learning education and childcare providers but the truth is that educators can’t undo the damage that parents cause when they prefer to provide the child with a tablet as if it was a pacifier and not spend quality time interacting with the child and engaging children in family activities and more importantly in social and communicative activities.
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