Chat App Fatigue

Two months into this Covid-19 quarantine and we’re running out of things to talk about and  “Chat App Fatigue” has become an actual thing. With each day blending into the next, there isn’t really anything new to discuss. An outing to the grocery store or the latest new release on Netflix aren’t the most riveting topics. 

But, as much as I struggle to keep the virtual conversation going, it’s become even more challenging for my kids. The older one isn’t chatty to begin with. He’d choose folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher over participating in a Facetime any day. He’s the strong silent type. My youngest on the other hand is the chattiest Cathy Avery you ever did meet. However, she’s struggling to find the words. Five minutes of a Google Meet, Zoom hangout, or Messenger Kids chat leaves her mentally exhausted.

This particular case of Chat App Fatigue has reached its peak. 

She still enjoys an “actionist” chat —the kind where she’s actively doing something like playing BINGO or playing pretend camping under blankets with ipads and flashlights, or singing along with a Disney princess from Frozen in a group Zoom call. She’s happy when there’s something to do. This kind of app chat interaction keeps her entertained and engaged. And since there’s a theme to take the focus off her, the pressure to process and form sentences is lifted. 

It’s the basic chew-the-fat, face-to-face web hangouts that drain her and they are the ones she’s suddenly been avoiding. 

The other day she was online chatting with a bestie when after a few minutes she started making excuses about why she needed to log off. She actually threw her dear mama under the bus, telling her friend that her mom said lunch was ready. It was 10:30 am. 

She’s burnt out. She has nothing left to say. For a child with a profound speech delay that makes every day conversations quite taxing, this makes perfect sense. 

So in an effort to make chatting online easier and more enjoyable (because she really does love seeing her friends and being social), we created this “Chat App Challenge Chart.” 

We place the chart where she can see it during her chats…

….and then challenge her to:

ASK at least three questions (with a focus on really listening to the answers and trying to add on to what they said). 

TELL at least three things about her life or what she likes to do.

Holding a conversation is a skill (comprised of many sub skills) which requires experience, practise, repetition. Throw in motor planning and speech challenges and this is tough. 

She’s still not a fan of chatty chat apps (the non-actionist kind), but with some encouragement and guidance, she’s learning how to maintain a face-to-digital-face conversation for longer periods, and with less frustration.

We’ll keep practising. But for now, she needs to get ready for her highly anticipated virtual magic show. 🙂 

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