Make the Most of This Special Time
Janick Hickman, MS, is a mental health counselor with the Center for Hearing and Communication in Broward County, Florida.
Are you planning to celebrate the holidays this year with a child with hearing loss? Perhaps your own child, a niece, nephew or grandchild? Make the most of this special time together by applying some of my holiday tips to help children with hearing loss communicate better and stay more engaged in holiday activities.
Top Holiday Tips: Children’s Edition
- Involve your child with hearing loss in the planning of a day, a meal, or an activity relating to your holiday celebration. Be sure to factor in age-appropriate considerations. If they are old enough, encourage them to share their ideas and play games that do not require frequent communication.
- Be mindful of background noises (e.g., loud music).
- Make sure assistive listening devices are working and have new batteries available. Check with your school district to see if your child can have their school hearing aids or FM devices over the holiday break. Some school districts have been more flexible with this option this year, due to Covid-19, in order to improve communication access.
- Slow down on turn taking during conversations and do not talk over one another. This presents further challenges for a person with hearing loss. Consider creating a fun “talking stick” or designating an object to be held by the person who is speaking. This provides an opportunity for the person with hearing loss to focus all their attention on one person.
- Be mindful of lighting. It’s best to have the faces of the speakers well lit while avoiding backlighting.
- If your family has the “I’m thankful for…” tradition, consider having everyone make their best collages or use their phones to find pictures for a SHOW rather than TELL “I’m thankful for…” experience.
- When watching holiday movies, turn on the Closed Captioning feature.
- Consider downloading the Ava captioning app or Google Live Transcribe app to support communication access.
- If your child uses American Sign Language, google key holiday phrases and words in ASL to surprise your loved one or use the opportunity as bonding time and have the child teach you the signs. The National Deaf Center has a Deaf 101 online course. It is advertised as a self-paced course, typically completed in about three hours.
For persons with hearing loss – adults and children alike – an unavoidable component of the communication process is concentration fatigue. This is even truer for those who communicate using American Sign Language. So when you apply some of the tips you’ve learned here, you’re helping to reduce the effect of concentration fatigue for the child with hearing loss in your life. Well done!