1. As parents you are your child’s main advocate. Listen to your instincts as you are the best judge of your child’s needs in all areas including academic, social, health and any special needs.
2. If your child does need speech and language therapy, do not assume this is a reflection of something you have not done for him/her. Some parents feel they should be able to correct speech or help children develop their areas of speech deficiency. But remember speech pathologists have a Masters Degree in communication disorders and have the specific training to plan and carry out appropriate therapy programs for your child.
3. We consider parents our “partners’ in the speech therapy process. Ongoing communication between us is extremely important and parents can make all the difference in the rate of progress in speech therapy.
4. Children need to develop social communication skills, this includes the ability to talk and interact with other children in all types of situations. This is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your child, the ability to develop friendships. (1) This is not just a “nice” thing to do but these skills will prepare the child for managing relationships throughout childhood and into adulthood. Playing with other children is extremely important from an early age.
5. As you are considering activities and enrichment classes for your children, consider Scouting. This group activity provides the opportunity for working together for the “good of the group” toward a common end as well as developing confidence and proficiency in many areas through merit badges and projects. For young children, we also recommend volunteering to be a room parent or scout leader/ helper. Not only will you be a part of the activities but you have an opportunity of meeting your child’s peer group.
6. The most effective way of helping a child feel competent or feel “good about himself” is not by repeatedly telling him how great he is, but by allowing the child to feel a sense of mastery and competence. Provide activities in which he can gradually learn and develop skills (music, sports, scouting, etc.)
7. Babies and toddlers need to play and move. Movement is critical for fine and gross motor development. Play is the primary way babies and young children learn self-control and social skills including friendship, mutual responsiveness and playfulness. (2)
8. Screen time is not advisable for children under the age of 2 years and limited screen time should be considered for 2 to 5 year olds. (3) Children advance in learning through social interaction, exploratory and repetitive play and task mastery.
9. A final word on children and technology: Who doesn’t love their smart phone, iPAD or other wonder gadgets? And we all know there are amazing apps for learning and game playing. However, is technology an advisable way for young children to learn? The human baby still develops through the same stages we know to be true and there is no evidence to support accelerated learning and development through technology. If your child only has so many waking hours in a day, you should be just as selective about how your children spend their time as you are about what they eat, where they go to school, what religion they are taught, with whom they socialize and your family values in general. There is plenty of time for technology but there is no time to make up for opportunities which may be missed engaging with other children, learning social nuances and developing confidence. Make informed choices in the area of technology as you do in other areas as well.
Hint: #1 Once you give a fretful child your smart phone, the genie is out of the bottle. Always have small toys, books, snacks and other items to entertain/teach your child (just as you did before technology).
Hint: #2 Model good technology courtesy and behavior. Stay off your phone/texting while you are with your children.
(1) Medina, John. Brain Rules for Baby, Pear Press, Seattle Washington, 2010, www.brainrules.net, www.johnmedina.com
(2) Navaez, Darcia PhD, "Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Babies": Psychology Today online, 12/08/2013 in Moral Landscapes
(3) "Managing Media: We Need a Plan", American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidance on managing children's and adolescents' media use. American Academy of Pediatrics, 10/28/2013 http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Managing-Media-We-Need-a-Plan.aspx