How 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.