EI Talk: A Blog for Early
Childhood Professionals

iGood, the iBad, and the iUgly of Screen Time for Young Children

Early Childhood Interventions March 02, 2015

When I was a youngster we had two screens in our house: a television screen and the screen door. Now with computers, laptops, iPods, iPads, iPhones, and everything else that begin with the letter “i” in its name, screens are ubiquitous in our children’s lives.

I could not believe my eyes as I watched my 4 year old cousin unwrap her touch screen cellphone Christmas morning of last year. Unfortunately for her she is unable to make quick phone calls during circle time, for the device does not have a service plan, it is only wifi enabled. But that does not stop her from taking selfies all day long. Although she cannot read yet, I find that since she started tapping away on her touch screen device her digital literacy has increased tremendously. She can associate the symbols of the ‘back’ button to their corresponding functions.

Clearly, young kids find electronic devices engaging. But what happens when you put one of these devices in the hands of a child under the age 2? Here is the iGood, the iBad, and the iUgly of these media devices; and the actions professionals suggest parents take to make sure their children get only the iBest out of their media experiences.

Sandra Calvert the Director of Georgetown University’s Children’s Media Center (http://cdmc.georgetown.edu/) reports that four major tends have emerged from the research undertaken over the last decade on children’s use of media:

  1. there is an increasing amount of child oriented media available,
  2. there is an increase in the development and use of media for very young children (under 2 years of age),
  3. there is an increase in multitasking even for young children, and
  4. interactive media platforms are easier to use even for very young children.

We all recognize that media is here to stay but what does the research say about young children’s use of media. According to Common Sense Media (2011):

  • 65% of children under 8 watch TV every day. Preschoolers average 2 hours/day.
  • 66% of children under 2 are exposed to TV content.
  • 30% of 6 month-24 month old infants and toddlers have a TV in their room. This suggests that very young children are watching video content alone.
  • 37% of children under 2 are exposed to screen media every day.
  • 21% of children use 2 use a computer (calvert, Rideout, Woolard, Barr, & Strouse, 2005)

According to PBS (2014) 18% of infants and toddlers spend the day watching either videos or DVDs. In fact, children of this age group spend double the amount of time with screens as they do reading books (PBS, 2014). That is too much Sesame, and not enough Seuss.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against screen time for infants and toddlers under the age of 2. Physicians believe that children learn best when interacting with people, not iPods. But in this age of ubiquitous media use is this realistic or even necessary? The key to media use as a benefit to young children is how it is used. And like all toys or tools young children benefit from their use when they are used interactively with another person. It seems no matter what—children still learn best person to person even if media is incorporated into the interaction.

A series of studies showed how 2 year olds find it challenging integrating information from a video and applying it to real life situations (Troseth, 2006). On the other hand, Troseth Has also found that Skype may actually be beneficial. Although a Skype call does include a screen, there is an active component to the call and the active interaction between the child and who is on the screen can be beneficial to a child’s development. Troseth believes that Skype calls, with a parent or grandparent, show children that what is on the screen is connected to their lives and builds upon social interaction (HU, 2013).  Thus, beneficial screen time includes an active interaction in real time with another person.

Other research (Calvert, Richards, Kent, 2014) indicates that when toddlers are exposed to media characters who were personalized they learned more from those characters than the non-personalized ones. The children exposed to the personalized characters also showed more parasocial, nurturing behaviors during play sessions,

Although adults are encouraged to interact with young children without electronic devices, the reality is that young children are growing up in the digital age and they find these devices attractive. So can parents call on technology to support development? According to National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) we should “allow children to explore digital materials in the context of human interactions, with an adult as mediator and co-player” (NAEYC). Too often, children are using the technology in isolation. Too often, parents are using the technology as a “teacher” not as a tool to assist the parent as teacher.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center has developed a list of ways parents can use media to engage with their children:

  • Use a digital camera or computer to show images and video of family, friends, animals, or events to children, especially when children might not otherwise have exposure to them. Talk to the child about the pictures, who the people are, the sights, etc.
  • Treat the experience of reading an e-book the same as reading a print book: put the child in your lap, point to objects on screen, talk with the child, and introduce new vocabulary.
  • Video chat with a loved one.

So—what about children with disabilities? How does this research apply to children with disabilities? What do you think? What does your experience tell you? How do you coach families to use assistive technology? Does the AAP recommendations hold-up? If my 4 year old cousin is typical, then screens are here to stay—How do we control the screen?

Let’s start a dialogue! 


Calvert, S. L., & Wartella, E. A. (2014). Children and electronic media. In E.T. Gershoff, R.S. Mistry, D.A. Crosby (Eds.).Societal contexts of child development: Pathways of influence and implications for practice and policy, (pp.175-187), New York: Oxford University Press.

Calvert, S. L., Richards, M. N., & Kent, C. C. (2014). Personalized interactive characters for toddlers’ learning of seriation from a video presentation. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology35(3), 148-155.

Calvert, S.L., Rideout, V.J., Woolard, J.L., Barr, R.F. & Strouse, G.A. (2005). Age,

ethnicity, and socioeconomic patterns in early computer use: A national survey.

American Behavioral Scientist, 48, 590-607.

Common Sense Media. (2011, October 25). Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

Hu, E. (2014, October 28). What You Need To Know About Babies, Toddlers And Screen Time. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

PBS. (n.d.). TV and Kids under Age 3. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

Technology and Young Children | National Association for the Education of Young Children | NAEYC. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2014. 

Troseth, G., Saylor, M., & Archer, A. (2006). Young Children’s Use Of Video As A Source Of Socially Relevant Information. Child Development, 786-799.  

Walter Kelly,
Georgetown University, COL’16

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The relationship between language and motor development in early childhood

Early Childhood Interventions January 14, 2015

Do you know?

  • Sitting posture in infants influences language development?
  • Rhythmic arm movements coincide with reduplicated babbling?
  • Developmental progression of an infant’s use of objects is linked directly to language achievements?
  • Mobility, especially upright mobility, is connected to social communication?

And who said only speech therapists promote language and only PTs and OTs promote motor development???

For most of us, developmental progression in the five primary developmental domains of cognition, communication, motor, adaptive, and social-emotional skills is very important. Most of us think that babies should sit up by 6 months of age, walk by 12 months, and talk by two. Parents, especially, anticipate seeing their babies reach those important milestones. Most people see moving and talking as two very different kinds of skills. Recent research, however, indicates that there is a clear relationship between learning to move and learning to talk. This relationship is more than developmental trajectories. Understanding this relationship may help us, as early interventionists, promote communication, language, and talking by promoting movement.

Various factors contribute to the development of language skills. These include cognition, gender, the environment, and the interaction between the child and primary caregivers. Only recently has attention been paid to the relationship between language and motor development. Research is building to show that movement directly influences the acquisition of language. According to Iverson (2010), three aspects of motor development are particularly influential on language development: posture, locomotion, and object-manipulation. Iverson argues that the acquisition of motor skills provides “infants with an opportunity to practice skills relevant to language acquisition before they are needed for that purpose” (p. 236)

Posture or sitting independently: When a baby can sit alone, his hands are free to reach for objects, explore the attributes of objects, or ask for a hug. Babies exploring objects are developing the concepts of object properties such as weight, texture, size. When spoken to about these properties they are reinforced and the baby links words/sounds to the properties.

In addition to the freeing of hands, when a child is able to sit upright independently there are substantial changes in her rib cage which in turn allow improved respiratory control needed for vocalizing, and positioning of the speech articulators (lip, tongue, teeth, pharynx). When a child sits upright and independently she breathes easily promoting longer utterances and the tongue is positioned forward which allows for the production of consonant-vowel combinations. Sitting independently with upright posture places the baby’s physical speech structures and physiology in an ideal position to promote speech sounds.

Locomotion or walking: When a child stands up and walks around, he gets more chances to interact with others and the environment. For example, most of us appreciate the fact that a child can walk to the adult to show the toy he’s interested in and get the adult’s attention. Independent exploration of the environment also reinforces the concepts of space and time and reinforces the development of joint attention. Walking, even more than crawling, has been linked to more sophisticated social communication. With the child’s development of spatial orientation he understands the components of joint attention indicating that something is not directly with him but where the person is pointing. When children are able to walk their social interactions become more specific, and person directed.

Object-manipulationManipulating a variety of objects provides children with more opportunities for exploration, encouraging them to reach and grasp objects. In addition to exploring properties of objects researchers have linked a child’s ability to pull apart and put together objects to increase in vocabulary. Babies primarily pull things apart during pre-speech but as the child learns to put things together, vocabulary increases, irrespective of chronological age. The physical action of manipulating objects creates a context for attaching meaning and understanding.

Rhythmic Arm Movements: According to Iverson (2010), as infants perform rhythmic arm movements (moving or shaking the arms with certain rhythm), hand banging (banging something with your hands, for example, banging the table) may present an opportunity for practicing the production of rhythmically organized and tightly timed actions. Rhythmic arm movements are organized and tightly timed actions.

Reduplicated babbling is vocalizations consisting of syllable repetition, for example, bababa. These actions are required for reduplicated babbling. Performing rhythmic arm movements such as hand banging provides a supportive context for the development of this skill. Hand banging provides multimodal feedback that allows the infant to observe and vary the relationship between a concrete action and the sounds and visions it makes.

Changes in posture, locomotion, and object-manipulation allow the child to sit up, move around their surroundings, and manipulate objects they are familiar with in new ways. These early experiences provide the infants more exploring and interacting opportunities, physiological stability, social referencing, and contextual attributes which all influence language development, communications, vocalizations, and vocabulary development.

How can we use this information as early interventionists? As an early interventionist, what can we do to better help children develop their language and motor skills? How does this research inform our practice, our intervention, our coaching of families?

There are several strategies that can be embedded in daily routines. The link between motor skills and language development is strong and is more than maturation. Manipulating the context may help to produce vocalizations, social communication, object meaning and understanding.

  1. Children who at about 6 months of age and are still struggling to learn to sit independently may benefit from support, not only to “practice” sitting but to position the lungs, rib cage, and speech articulators in an optimal position for speech production and vocalizations which will in turn enhance the child’s communication skills.
  2. You can display a toy dog or other toys that the baby likes in front of him and keep it out of his reach. Try to make the sound to attract his attention. The baby may be reaching his hands, crawling or walking toward the toy or make an attempt to imitate the sound of the word “dog”. During the interaction, try to make eye contact and keep talking to the baby, encourage the baby and reinforce his intentional behaviors.
  3. Give the child a rattle to manipulate and shake, encourage him to move both his arms. When the baby is engaging in rhythmic banging, he is feeling himself move, seeing the movement of his arms, and hearing the resultant sound, all occurring in synchrony. This kind of rhythmic arm movements will enhance the reduplicated babbling, further promote the language development.

The Iverson article gives us lots of food for thought. What are your ideas? How would you and your teams use this information to help your families?   Read the Iverson article and start a conversation here on TalkEI!

Meng Lyu
East China Normal University


Iverson, J. (2010). Developing language in a developing body: the relationship between motor development and language development. Journal of Child Language, 37(2), 229–261.

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Collecting Information about Infants and Toddlers A Smorgasbord of Choices

Early Childhood Interventions December 15, 2014

A primary role of an early interventionist is to document the development of a young child. We collect this type of information for a variety of reasons, including to: determine skill level, determine strengths, determine patterns of development, etc. We collect information in five primary developmental domains: adaptive, cognitive, communication, motor, and social-emotional. We use assessment tools, evaluation tests, screening procedures to make these determinations. Using procedures that are structured helps us feel confident that the differences we may see are accurate. Assessing children early is key to the identification of delays and referral to services and supports that may be of help to promote functional participation of the child in everyday activities.

However, there are so many tools and tests available that all appear to do the same thing. SO— “What’s the difference?!” This blog will outline the basic differences among five commonly used early intervention assessments: Assessment, Evaluation, And Programming System for Infants and Children-2ndEd. (AEPS-2), Ages and Stages Questionnaires, 3rd Ed. (ASQ-3), Battelle Development Inventory, 2nd Ed.(BDI-2), Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-3rd Ed.(BSID-III), and the Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP).

Each of these tools collects information about the child’s status in the five major developmental domains: motor, cognition, communication, social-emotional, and adaptive. Although these tools are similar there are some clear differences that indicate the strengths of each one. AEPS is widely regarded as one of the best curriculum-based, criterion-referenced tools in the early childhood field. ASQ-3 is considered an accurate, family-friendly way to screen children for developmental delays between one month and 5½ years. The BDI-2 and the BSID-III are norm-referenced standardized tools that determine if a child is delayed in comparison to his or her age group peers. The BDI-2 has also been shown to be useful to monitor change in development over time.

The following chart describes each of these five tools on five main elements of test/tool construction: purposetype, content, administration and scoring.

The psychometric qualities of a tool are also important to consider, because reliability and validity are important to help a practitioner determine which tools will give them the most accurate information for their purposes. Reliability provides information on consistency of each assessment tool while validity refers to how well a test measures what it is purported to measure.

Pricing and availability are other issues to take into account when a practitioner tries to choose the right assessment. Please see the chart below to find the cost, ordering information and website for each tool.

Meng Lyu
East China Normal University

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Children with Disability in the United Arab Emirates and the Services they Receive

Early Childhood Interventions September 24, 2014

The author of this post is a visiting scholar with the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development and a student with the Georgetown University Certificate in Early Intervention Program

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) one of the Arabic Countries of the Middle East is comprised of seven emirates. Situated on the Arabian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia and north of Oman, the UAE has a long history of local tribal lifestyle and of later European influences. The country has dramatically emerged into the mainstream of modernism over the past 42 years. The economy is driven by oil and gas and recently tourism. In 1951, the Trucial States Council was formed, bringing all the leaders of the various groups throughout the region together. Seven emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras-Al-Kahaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ajman, joined together forming the United Arab Emirates in 1971.

map of the united arab emirates

The major religion of the country is Islam. Ninety-six percent of the population is Muslim and the rest are Christian or Hindu . The population of the UAE is approximately 8 million people, of which only 20-22 percent are Emirati citizens. Most of the population is made up of expatriates, about 50% of whom are from the Indian subcontinent. The population as a high percentage of young people (Table 1). According to the World Health Organization approximately 11 percent of the UAE population has a disability. This percentage is consistent with what the WHO projects is the world’s population of people with disabilities.

The Government of the UAE is committed to the welfare of children. Children who are citizens receive free health care and education. The standards of health care are considered to be generally high in the United Arab Emirates. During the strong economic years the government spent a significant amount of money on health care. According to the government, total expenditures on health care from 1996 to 2003 were US $436 million.

The UAE is interested in developing services for people with disabilities. The UAE Disability Act (Federal Law No. 29/2006) was passed in 2006 to protect the rights of people with disabilities. This law stipulates that UAE nationals with disabilities have the same rights to work and occupy public positions. In addition, the UAE ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the March 19, 2010.

In March 2014, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, in his capacity as the Ruler of Dubai, issued Law No. (2) of 2014 “to protect the rights of people with disabilities in the emirate of Dubai”. The law supports Federal Law No. (29) concerning the rights of people with disabilities, and supports providing high-quality medical care and social services, boosts public awareness of people with disabilities, contributes to integrating people with disabilities into society, and reaffirms their participation in social development .

Services for people with disabilities are offered primarily in three types of programs:

o Governmental Centers, which are run by the federal, or local government (state), offering free services especially to the citizens . o Semi-governmental Centers, usually organized by non-profit charitable organizations, offering free or semi free services. o Private centers or schools or rehabilitation clinics which require a fee or payment for services.

Services offered to people with disabilities according to age group include the following (Table 2) :

types of programs comparing with age group
Table 2

Each emirate (state) has its own rules and regulations regarding programs for people with disabilities. The emirate of Sharjah has a long history of concern for people with disabilities. Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS ) is a large, local, non-profit organization founded in 1979 as a branch of the Arab Family Organization in the Gulf region. The purpose of the Arab Family Organization is to support Arab families and provide needed social services. SCHS is considered the first institute in UAE to provide specialized services to persons with disabilities.

The vision of the SCHS is to be a leader in advocacy, inclusion, and empowerment for persons with disabilities in the United Arab Emirates and the Arab world. The mission is to provide services in early intervention, community outreach, education, rehabilitation, and job placement for people with disabilities assisting them to become independent, self-reliant members of society.

Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS) has almost 500 employees, serving around 3000 persons with disability yearly. People served include all age groups. What is unique is that the SCHS serves all residents, including non-emirates. SCHS has three branches in the Emirate of Sharjah. SCHS offers a variety of programs via specialized centers, departments, and schools covering several programs:

• Al Amal school for the students with hearing Impairments and Al Amal Kindergarten for students with hearing Impairments , ( nursery to secondary level (preschool to grade 12). • Al Wafa Schools for developmental training for students with intellectual disabilities from age 5 years and above. • Sharjah Autism center for children with autism from age 5 years and above. • Early intervention center for children from birth till age 5 years. • Physical and Occupational Therapy Dept. for children with motor and sensory impairments from 0-18 years. • Vocational Rehabilitation and Training Dept. from age 15 years and above. • Sharjah City Audiology Center for all people with hearing impairments (hearing test and follow up) all age group. • There is also a unit for people with visual impairment offering the services for all age groups.

As mentioned there is three branches of SCHS in Sharjah having the same mentioned facilities and programs organized regionally throughout Sharjah:

  1. SCHS Middle region (Al Thiad branch).
  2. SCHS East region (Khorfakkan Branch).
  3. SCHS East region (Kalbaa branch).

One of the most important centers of SCHS is the early intervention center (EIC ) established in 1992 servicing children from birth till 5 years of age. This center is the first one in the region, to offer services to young children, their families and the community. The Center has a variety of departments and facilities:

o Social services department o Family counseling and training department including home based services o Speech-language therapy department o Educational department including a preschool program for children 3-5 years o Visual impairment department all ages o Physical and Occupational Therapy department o AVT and Audiology test department for all ages o Psychology department

There is also a screening program at the local nursery and preschool programs, and an inclusion follow up program with the local schools .

The Center serves about 350 children annually and has served around 2700 children since official opening in 1992. Each year 120 new children are enrolled in the center services.

Finally the SCHS is looking to influence the community’s attitude throughout Sharjah to guarantee real integration and inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of life (Educational, Medical, Social) .

Islam sees disability as morally neutral. It is seen neither as a blessing nor as a curse. Clearly, disability is therefore accepted as being an inevitable part of the human condition. It is simply a fact of life which has to be addressed appropriately by the society of the day, thus, people with disabilities are given an opportunity for independency. Also, federal law 29/2006 of the UAE provides Emirates with disabilities the right to be part of the society. However, implementing federal law 29/2006 continues to be challenging.

Although there is interest in integrated, inclusionary services most services in the UAE continue to be delivered through centers for special needs. Additionally, the UAE lacks schools that accept children with disability without restrictions. There continues to be a lack of services and service providers to serve all children with disabilities even using segregated, isolated programs, especially in early intervention. Creating appropriate early childhood services using contemporary evidence based programs for children birth to three needs to be emphasized.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_in_the_United_Arab_Emirates
  2. http://dubai.ae/en/Lists/Topics/DispForm.aspx?ID=15&category=Home
  3. http://schs.ae/aboutus.aspx
  4. http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/statistics/
  5. Bradshaw, K., Tennant, L., & Lydiatt, S. (2004). Special education in the United Arab Emirates: Anxieties, attitudes, and aspirations. International Journal of Special Education (19)1, 49-55 .
  6. http://www.enmcr.net/site/assets/files/1382/children_s_rights_in_uae_-_fatma_beshir.pdf
  7. Dr. Christopher Reynolds ; Federal Law 29 – The Implications for Private Schools in the UAE http://who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/technical_appendices.pdf 8.
  8. https://www.swisslife.com/content/dam/id_corporateclients/downloads/ebrm/UAE.pdf
  9. http://www.escwa.un.org/popin/members/uae.pdf
  10. http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/united-arab-emirates-population/
  11. http://www.expatwoman.com/abudhabi/monthly_abudhabi_faqs_Special_Needs_Resources_and_Support_In_The_UAE_9261.aspx

Mohammad Yousef GU Certificate in Early Intervention (2015) Physical Therapists, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS)

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