How to Play Videogames with Developmentally Delayed Kids

My wife and I are both gamers.

When we had our first child, we were quite happy just thinking how good it will be to have all the family having the same hobby and playing video games together or against each other.

While the thought excited us, we never anticipated that our son will turn out to be developmentally delayed. Growing up, we were both ahead when it comes to mental development. My wife was always ahead of her class and I wasn’t lagging behind either.

When we learned that our son had Global Developmental Delay (GDD) with Speech Disorder, we were scared that he won’t be able to cope up.

In the past we made a grave mistake of letting our son play on the iPad too much. It’s not like he’s playing violent games or anything. He actually played educational games and he has learned many basic things like ABC, identifying colors, shapes, and numbers. Yet, too much screen time is just too much. Things should always be consumed in moderation; more so if you have a developmentally delayed child.

Be Selective with the Kind of Games Your Child Plays

Every parent should be aware of what their child is playing especially if the child has different abilities.

There are iPad assisted intervention apps already implemented by therapists to treat children with autism. That is a different matter altogether, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that apps will also be used for GDD in the future.

What we do for now is to look for educational games that can help improve our son’s speech and attention .

For example, endless runner games are great at teaching our kid directions. When he makes a character move, my wife and I would tell him in a playful but clear voice that the character is going left, right, up, or down.

When he is playing ABC and counting games, we sing and count with him. We point out objects and animals and tell him what is big and what is small, what is long/tall and what is short.

Limit Screen Time

Parents are always told to limit their kid’s screen time, and that’s the best advice.

The reason why we should limit screen time is that we don’t have definitive research on how a little child’s brain reacts to playing video games for an extended time.

As I said, there are studies that are being made but they are at an early stage. Unfortunately, we are the first parents in this generation where tablet games are so ubiquitous. This is uncharted territory, thus we need to be very careful. Most especially, since we are talking about our kids here.

Limiting screen time is not just about development, it is also about discipline. While we are all born with our own set of self-discipline, willpower can be trained and improved upon. If we can train our children and instil self-discipline then we are giving them the best fighting chance to become successful.

Play Together with Your Child

Our child is 4-years-old but is still not able to have a sustained conversation. That’s primarily due to his short attention span. Letting a child like this play video games for too long will further shorten that attention span. This is where parenting comes in.

Parental guidance is needed when a developmentally challenged child is involved. You cannot absolutely let even normal kids play with video games on their own. This is certainly a no-no when your child is speech delayed. You need to play with them and keep them focused on your voice as you guide them.

Having a therapist or teacher to help your child is not an excuse for inaction. As parents, it’s our duty to help our children get the necessary skills in life. There are tools that we use to do that and one of them are video games. The real silver lining to this whole dark cloud is that there is still hope. Video games can be assistive to children with different abilities. My son can still recover through developmental therapy and our intervention.

Talking with him constantly is one thing, explaining to him everything makes the difference.

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