Christmas tips for children with a hearing impairment
The festive period is an exciting time of year for everyone, but it is important to remember that for some it can be more challenging than others.
Being hearing impaired can make certain aspects of the festive period more difficult, for example attending a Christmas Carol concert or visiting Santa.
While your child may be comfortable in your usual family environment, the festive period can mean we are socialising with extended family and friends which can be noisy and busy! This can be unsettling and confusing for any child, let alone one with a hearing impairment who may find themselves feeling left out.
Talk to friends and family ahead of time
By speaking to friends and family ahead of time, you can remind them of things they can do to help involve your child in the celebrations. While not everyone knows British Sign Language (BSL) or Makaton, even just learning to fingerspell their name or a few festive signs will mean a lot to a child with a hearing impairment and go a long way to helping them feel included.
If there is more than one person involved in the conversation, take turns to talk. Turn taking also makes it easier for a parent or sibling to facilitate communication or interpretation if needed.
It is also useful to remember that while it’s important to enjoy the celebrations, shouting can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users and can look aggressive to someone reading your lips.
Make sure your child has an active role in the Christmas preparations
Talk to your child ahead of time, to make sure that they know everything that is going to happen over the Christmas period, especially if you have lots of different plans. Involve them in planning the event, for example by letting them help to decorate, do some baking, shop, plan the menu or wrap presents (as age and ability allow).
This will help to make sure they feel included and part of everything that is going on.
By using visual aids or a written schedule, you can ensure the whole family is aware of what is planned each day. This can be helpful as Christmas can be a busy and stressful time for everyone, especially if you are hosting.
Inclusive Christmas Traditions
For many, Christmas carols and songs are a favourite tradition of Christmas, making memories through attending a carol concert or even going out carol-singing.
By attending an inclusive carol concert featuring sign language such as BSL or Makaton, you can make sure that the whole family can enjoy and join in with singing some of your favourite Christmas songs.
Additionally, if you are planning on making a visit to Santa’s Grotto, you may be able to find out ahead of time whether there are any particular places that cater to those with a hearing impairment. A Santa who can communicate in sign language can go a long way to ensuring your child feels included in the Christmas excitement and helps them to feel represented too.
It is also helpful to think about seating arrangements during the festive period as it is useful for children with a hearing impairment to be able to see everyone in order to lip read or sign. By making sure they sit centrally, they have better opportunities to lip read everyone in the group.
Where possible, sitting at a round table is also conducive to this because it means that everyone can see each other’s faces more easily than sitting at a table with corners.
Turning the music off and keeping background noises to a minimum during mealtimes and conversation is helpful, as it can make it more difficult for people with a hearing impairment to communicate. Making sure the room is well lit is also important, so faces can be easily seen for lipreading.
Likewise, if you are visiting a public setting like a pub or restaurant, request a table in a quiet, well-lit area of the venue to minimise background noise and allow for communication between everyone.
Closed Captioning on Christmas Films
For us, a Christmas highlight is circling everything we want to watch in the Radio Times over the festive period! There is nothing like getting cosy and watching a Christmas film together after all.
In order to make sure that this experience is enjoyable for everyone, a simple thing we can do is ensure that subtitles or closed captioning are on. Raymond Briggs’ classic film ‘The Snowman’ is also a family favourite, which doesn’t involve speech.
Toys and Games
One of the best parts of Christmas is the opportunities for family bonding, laughter and enjoyment. Games provide a great way to help children with a hearing impairment to feel included at Christmas, just make sure they don’t rely too heavily on sound or listening.
For example, board games or quizzes which are presented in a visual or written format work well. Games that stimulate the other senses can also be great fun, especially for younger children as they are fantastic for learning and development.
Christmas Eve Box
This Christmas-themed box combines a matching game and puzzle which have a visual format and are simple and easy to play, ideal for family bonding time and encouraging turn-taking.
This fun game is ideal for families to play together and can be a great leveller as it is all about what you can see, with the upside down goggles transforming simple tasks into something more challenging for everyone. This results in lots of laughter and hilarity and focuses on physical movements and visual thinking rather than listening and speaking.
Creating a touchy-feely Christmas book can offer fun opportunities for creative expression as children play with textures and colours, providing a place to record lovely memories too.
With some flour, oil and bicarbonate of soda, you can make a simple ‘play dough’ and add ginger, cinnamon and even glitter to it, for a gingerbread theme. This is great fun for children to interact with, due to its lovely smell, colour, feel and shiny appearance.
You can also play a simple sensory guessing game using a Christmas stocking. Place some different items inside and have the children try and identify what they are, just by feeling them in their hands. Games like this can be great for providing a level playing field, as every player must rely on their sense of touch and curiosity.
Christmas provides a lovely opportunity for family and friends to come together and enjoy quality time. By making sure your Christmas celebrations are inclusive for every family member, you can ensure it will be a special time for everyone.
Try some of our tips to help you with planning ahead and organising activities that will help children with hearing impairments to feel as involved as everyone else. This often just takes some slight tweaks to the traditional activities we know and love – it may even result in your family starting some lovely new traditions of your own!