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Toddler Watching TVHow many times has this happened to you? You arrive for your EI visit to a family’s home and find that the large screen TV is on and a favorite show is airing. Perhaps it is a beloved cartoon for the child, or maybe it is the mother’s favorite talk show host. Is the father watching the NBA playoffs?

Often a service provider’s initial response is to ask about turning the TV off to eliminate distractions. The thought is that the caregiver and the child may be better able to focus on the early intervention session and even more on the child’s IFSP outcomes. But consider what would be happening if the service provider was not in the home at this given time. Most likely, that TV would still be on. The family would be watching their favorite shows because that is their routine. This is what they do when early intervention providers are not around. Service providers, therefore, must consider how to support families in those everyday routines and activities. Expecting families to change their daily activities can lead to frustration when there is a perceived “lack of follow through.”

Let’s look at some strategies using our TV examples.

Child’s Favorite Show

Start with the child’s IFSP outcomes. Maybe the family is working on language and requesting and “Dora” is on TV. Prompt the child to ask for Dora by turning the TV off and responding to verbalizations or signs for “Dora.” Quickly turn the TV back on to Dora after each sound.

Mother’s Favorite Show

Start with the child’s IFSP outcomes. Perhaps the family is trying to teach the child to attend to a quiet task for a short time. Suggest that the mother find some favorite quiet toys to bring out during her TV program. Books, Playdough, and crayons are all activities that can be done while the mother is watching her program. Encourage the mom to provide direct, interactive opportunities during commercials. She could read a short story, make a Playdough snake or trace the child’s hand.

Father’s Favorite Show

Start with the child’s IFSP outcomes. Is the family trying to encourage more eye contact and social interactions? Model for the father that every time a basket is scored during the game, he calls the child’s name, makes direct eye contact and does some interactive motion such as raising the child’s arms and yelling, “WHOOSH!”

As you consider the suggested strategies, what is the consistent first step? You’ve got it! Start with the child’s IFSP outcomes. Use the family’s everyday routine of TV watching and think creatively. And…don’t turn off the TV!

What strategies do you have to incorporate TV watching as part of your EI visit? Share a time when you’ve had a successful EI visit while the TV was still on.

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6 comments on “Can You Compete with Dr. Phil?

  • I agree, Cori. The TV just is a part of life for many families. I once couldn’t compete with Handy Manny so we worked with the child and parent to teach the sign for “more” by turning on and off the TV. It worked like a charm, and on my next visit, the family said that they’d used the techniques (of a little withholding, prompting and waiting for the sign) to teach the child to use “more” to get snacks too. Turned out to be a great learning opportunity for the family!

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  • Kim Lephart says:

    Cori
    What great ideas on how to incorporate the TV INTO interventions. I’ll admit, while I haven’t asked families to turn off the TV, I tend to try to ignore the TV during my early intervention sessions with families. I tend to get so distracted by the TV that I have to position myself with my back to the TV. On occasion, I have used the music during commercials or cartoons to encourage the kiddos to dance or cruise around furniture and then stop when the music stops. I’ll try working some of your ideas into my sessions too!
    Thanks again for the suggestions!
    Kim

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  • Cori Hill says:

    Kim, I know just what you mean about getting distracted. One time on a visit, Jerry Springer was on and I caught myself with mouth agape honing in on the show! (-: SHEESH! Once I figured out that this family watched this show every day, we talked about what the little guy could do to address some of his outcomes all while watching chairs being thrown across the TV stage! (-:

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  • Jennifer Keesler says:

    Loved the idea with the basketball swoosh! On a recent visit to a home, the little girl was getting her hair done and watching her video (routine. When I came in Mom turned the video off and put the hair stuff away. I stopped her and had her get it all back out (after asking if she usually takes a break) and we had one of the best sessions talking about hair and Dora, using this time to really connect language to her videos.

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    • What a fantastic example, Jennifer! I love it that you asked first (always a good idea) then had them continue what they were doing. I’m not surprised that it was a great session – they probably learned things they can use everyday and you probably learned a little more about how they interact! Nice work!

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    • Cori Hill says:

      Hey Jennifer: I agree with Dana. I LOVED your example! What a natural and typical part of their day to explore and expand on the little girl’s language skills!

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