A primary school in Middlesbrough has hit the headlines this week. The Head Teacher urged parents to ditch their mobiles at pick-up time so that they engage with their children rather have their attention focussed elsewhere.
And I say bravo, halleluyah and fantastico 🙂
We live in a world of high-tech and fast moving electronic innovation. I have seen how technology can assist our special children. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices have enabled effective communication to those who are either physically impaired or have difficulties with language. There are some amazing apparatus that can help a child express their feelings and offer opinions with the touch of the screen or using the power of eye gaze.
There are incredible apps that help children who are struggling with writing or maths and makes understanding of a subject more accessible.
Laptops and tablets with speech software and predictive text have enabled reluctant writers to produce some incredible pieces of work.
School classrooms are now equipped with interactive whiteboards (which are like giant touch-screen computers on the wall) to make learning fun and motivating. Children are encouraged to interact with the technology. Teaching is now extremely multi-sensory and teachers have to use skills that are distinctly space-age. It is a far cry from the blackboard and chalk of my youth.
At home our special children can use technology to help them make sense of the world and help with organisation. There are plenty of apps that will help with planning, routine and recording thoughts and ideas. There are timers, communication boards and social stories.
We can use this amazing technology to expose our children to real life news events by watching videos. We could even encourage to join a protected site and connect with similar children from across the world.Our children with limited mobility will use technology to enable them to lead as normal life as possible through switch-adapted devices.
The possibilities of technology are endless.
Technology can enhance and improve our special children’s worlds.
Too often these wonderful, amazing feats in engineering are being used to the detriment of family life rather than enhancing it.
How many times do you answer ‘yes’ to the following questions?:
- Do you have your mobile phone at the table at meal times?
- Do you take multiple photos of your child when you’re out so that you can post them on Facebook?
- Do you take an ipad or tablet out to a restaurant for your child to watch a movie?
- Is your child’s laptop in their bedroom?
- Is your mobile phone with you at all times?
Now I really don’t want to come across as moany, preachy or a killjoy but if you’ve answered ‘yes’ to all 5 then seriously I think things may need to change.
I really don’t want to insult anyone in what I’m going to say next, so I apologise in advance.
Let me justify.
- Mobile phones at meal times kill conversation. Your focus and attention is on who has just posted, tweeted or instagrammed. Has the email gone through? How many likes have I got? Rather than all your focus be on talking to people you’re sharing your mealtime with. We are our children’s role models. Quite often it is during this time that your child may disclose something that’s bothering them or will share something lovely. Give them all your focus.
- Taking multiple photos for Facebook is just not necessary. If you’re in the woods, going to a party, at the park or with family just stop and enjoy it. Live in the moment and be there with your child. Take one photo for your own personal use to remember a beautiful memory if you want to but then put the phone away. We all feel the pressure to show the Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram world that are lives are so immensely full and exciting. But really the best thing you can do is see the experience through your own eyes and not through the lense of your iphone.
- I can’t bear seeing couples in a restaurant both on their mobile phones. To me that screams that they would rather be in the company of someone else. Why would you want to check out other people’s Facebook status? Again put the phone away and focus on each other. But the thing that really, really winds me up is seeing children and babies (yes babies) plonked in front of an ipad or tablet. I’ve spoken about this before and I do appreciate that for our special children this distraction enables them to at least remain in situ and stops any meltdown. Yes I agree to some extent. However, if the restaurant experience is too traumatic for your special child then maybe keep it really, really short and choose somewhere lively. Have a load of toys, books, crayons and simple games handy to avoid confrontation. But there are many children who do not have special needs who could easily sit at a table without staring at brain numbing cartoons. They are not learning any social skills, not interacting, not engaging. They are learning to be passive.
- If your child’s laptop is in their bedroom please check what they are looking at. Our children are very savvy but you must be smarter.There are many, many unsuitable options connected with being online. Our special children need us to be vigilant.
- Finally, try and go for a walk and leave your mobile at home. It’s really refreshing. Yes, no one can contact you. No, you can’t take photos. No, you can’t check in. But try it – you’ll love it.
So. Technology is incredible and can give our special children wondrous opportunities in all aspects of their lives.
But let us not lose track as to what is really important in life.
Family, friendship, love. You can’t get that on an iphone.
Greet your child with a smile – not your mobile.