Summer Fun or Summer Bummer?Jun 13, 2022
Although summer is something that many of us look forward to, for some children with hearing loss, summer is a time of stress and loneliness.
However, a little bit of planning and thought can make a big difference for your child. This blog post will outline the steps that can help families support their children this summer.
A lot of summer activities that are fun for other kids can be stressful for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. This stress can be triggered because they don't have full access to the activity or the planning, people or background information to understand or anticipate it. This might mean that they do not understand where you are going, who you are with, or can fully access the conversation and fun that is happening around them. This can especially be an issue when there are big groups of people involved. This can cause stress and frustration for your child, which can impact the full event and everyone involved.
What can parents do to help?
Parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing can easily support and help their child this summer when it comes to minimizing triggers that can make fun events turn stressful.
To do this, consider each summer activity and what you need to enjoy it. Does your child know what is going to happen ahead of time? Do they know who will be there and who those people are?
Preparing your child ahead of time by talking about upcoming events, reading books and showing pictures of who and what they can expect at the event can help prepare your child for your upcoming activity.
Consider the event in general. What skills does your child need to benefit from the experience? Does the activity rely heavily on hearing? If so, how will your child be able to access the event? What will your child need to communicate? And, will your child have access to someone who understands their needs?
Talking through potential situations and role-playing how to approach them is helpful for your child. In addition, thinking ahead of phrases your child may want or need to communicate ahead of time, and practicing when and where to use them, can help your child build appropriate social and communication skills.
Here are some challenges that your child may face during summer activities that can create stress instead of fun.
- A disruption in routine. Your child is accustomed to the support they receive in and out of the classroom and at home. These activities do not always have the same infrastructure to accommodate that support. It becomes difficult to predict what may happen and that uncertainty can cause stress. For other people, the information that we acquire to handle these situations is incidental or “overlearned”. That’s not the case for children with hearing loss.
- Feeling isolated from peers. Most of the time, DHH children are around the kids in their school or their class who have learned how to communicate with them. These summer activities may be around kids who don’t know that your child is deaf or hard of hearing and will not be able to communicate with them effectively.
- Not having access to the typical support systems. A lot of the accessibility devices and services that are available to your child do not allow for these summer activities. They are meant for mostly controlled environments, such as classrooms, home, and work. Outdoor activities can be challenging, especially water activities. Especially when your child depends on technology.
- Space/Distance. How big is this environment? Do people need to project their voices in order to be heard?
- Number of people. The bigger the group, the more there are people talking over each other, speaking louder to hear each other.
- Ambient Noise. What kind of noises are in the background? Is there music?
- Number of events happening in the same space. This takes into account the previous points of ambient noise, number of people, and the space. This can be incredibly overwhelming for anyone, let alone a child with hearing loss.
- Familiarity with the environment. Do you and your child know what to expect or is the environment completely new? This is where preparation is key.
These are just a few examples of some difficulties that may occur. Another important aspect to consider is not only acknowledging these difficulties but also understanding your child’s reaction to them. Everyone is different in how they respond to stress, but effective communication and preparation can significantly affect the outcome. Instead of feeling isolated or frustrated by lack of communication, your child can be properly equipped to manage the stress as it comes, which allows them to feel included and have more fun.
Proper preparation can really pay off when you think about the possible challenges that your child may face. It is a lot to think about, but you can do it! Thinking about it now will avoid worrying about it later.
Now that you have considered the event and how to prepare your child for it, consider these additional logistics that can impact the success of the activity.
- What hearing technology and accessories do you have? Do they require chargers? Batteries? Are they fully charged before the activity?Bring some extra batteries or a portable charger to plug into if it’s needed.
- Communication. Practice some general communication signals and cues for your child to learn that can apply to a variety of different situations and will let you and any supervisors know if your child needs assistance. Consider coming up with a special code for your child to communicate feelings of overwhelm or isolation, so that you can know if they need a break or some support.
- Request accommodations ahead of time if needed for traveling or attending an event. Make the supervisors or coordinators of the event aware of your situation and ask about what accommodations can be made in order to reduce the stress on you. With certain accommodations in place, you and your child will have easier access to that summer fun!
Tips for Summer Fun....
Here are a few more ideas to help your child enjoy their summer and the special events you have planned.
- Create a summer calendar. Make sure to explicitly share that calendar with your child, and acknowledge days and events that are outside of your normal routine. Simply knowing these changes in routine exist is an important step.
- Make it visible. Your child needs to have daily access and exposure to this calendar. That way they can familiarize themselves with it. Utilize language that matches their development level so they can fully understand it.
- Details! Provide as much detail as you can for your child. Include and inform them. This way they will be able to see how an idea or a plan can become an actual event. If their development level allows it, include them in the creation of this routine. It will help them manage on their own eventually.
- Use an access lens to identify potential barriers. Ask yourself questions about the possibilities and potential challenges. You can never be too prepared so if you’re asking whether something may be an issue, it could potentially be one, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Once identified, create a plan and request accommodations as needed.
There can be more aspects to consider, but these are the main points to acknowledge when determining the state of the surroundings and how to prepare your child for upcoming events. Some activities create barriers for a child with hearing loss because their access to that event or activity becomes extremely limited. Following these tips will help reduce these barriers.
Hopefully this blog post is helpful in your journey to a fun-filled summer for you and your family. If you are looking for more support and trainings in meeting the needs of children who are deaf and hard of hearing, plus a community of other families on the same journey, check out the FRIEND Academy. The FRIEND Academy stands for Family Resources, Information and Education for Navigating the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Journey. It will give you the road map and tools to help you along the way. Join Here.