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Television - How Will You Use It For Your Special Needs Child?

Television can be a stimulating teacher or a mindless drug, awakening the senses or dulling them. Like many other pieces of technology, it can be used well or abused. What makes television unique, however, is the great amount of potential exposure that children and especially pre-schooler have to it. Television statistics are startling: the average child will have watched 5,000 hours of TV before he enters first grade. Since children are so naturally captivated by television, it is important that parents decide early on how television will be used in their home. It is even more important that parents of special needs children use television constructively. Of course, who has not wanted (needed!) to turn it on to distract or entertain their child at one time or another? Yet how easy it is to create a routine that the child comes to expect and how hard it becomes to say no. Now think of the possibilities if television were used thoughtfully. Combined with video capability, what a powerful ally it could be in our children's education! With its ability to let the child see and hear the same information many times over, television/video technology is especially well-suited to teaching special needs children. And when guidance/reinforcement is provided by parents, the possibilities are extraordinary. The child gets the repetition necessary to master a skill or concept without the parent necessarily involved in the tedium of saying/doing something over and over. Who wouldn't rather use a tool that is worth the time and effort your child expends on it instead of turning on just another TV show? An educational video for special needs children can both teach and entertain if it designed correctly. It will present the information in a clear, non-confusing way with no extraneous detail to detract from the object or concept being taught. For while "busyness" can be eye-catching, it may also get in the way of learning by preventing the child from focusing. If the producers of the tape truly understand the special considerations of these special children, they will design an educational tape that uses graphics, animation and music to hold the child's interest without overwhelming or distracting them from the real subject matter. This is quite different from television where even on good programs there is typically so much information presented or so much detail added to enhance interest that the message is lost for children with special learning needs. Parents need to select their teaching videos carefully if they want their children to receive maximum benefit. Videos are geared to different levels of learning and it may take some searching to find one that meets a particular need. But once it is found and then used consistently, television begins to provide a very real benefit by making a positive, measurable difference in the life of a special needs child. Language and Reading Development