Make Christmas deaf friendly

We’ve put together some top tips to help deaf children and young people feel included at Christmas time. Share with family, friends, teachers, youth club workers, and anyone else who will be spending time with your child at this time of year.

From talking to parents and deaf young people, we know that times of celebration and get-togethers with friends and family can be a difficult time for deaf children and young people, no matter whether it’s Christmas, a birthday, wedding or any other festivity. Children can find themselves feeling left out – out of their usual routine, amongst people who aren’t very deaf aware and in noisy and busy situations.

Mealtimes  

  • Use tablecloths to absorb sound from clattering cutlery.
  • Think about positioning – can the child see everyone clearly to lipread or read sign? A round table is ideal so that everyone can see each other.

A family play a game whilst eating snacks

  • Speak one at a time.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full or cover your mouth when speaking.
  • Put your cutlery down from time to time to sign.
  • Be aware that a deaf child may choose to eat all their food and then get involved in conversation rather than trying to follow while eating.
  • Let the child know what the topic of conversation is so that they can follow more easily.
  • When eating out, ask for a table in a quiet, well-lit area of the restaurant.
  • At a restaurant, the waiting staff often engage in small talk which the child can miss, so be ready to interpret for them so that they know what’s being said.
  • Encourage your child to ask the waiting staff or host for what they want – try not to order/ask for them.
  • Choose somewhere to eat that has visual children’s menus that the child can point to. 

Watch our video with deaf young people

Friends and family

  • Have a chat with any friends and family you’ll be seeing to remind them of what they need to do to include your deaf child – show them our 11 tips for communicating with a deaf child webpage.
  • Encourage them to brush up on their BSL – even if they learn how to fingerspell their name or a few festive signs, this will mean a lot to a deaf child. Check out our Christmas BSL videos on our YouTube channel.

Background noise

  • Keep music on low or turn it off completely during conversation and mealtimes.
  • Is the background music making it too hard to communicate? Ask the child what level is okay for them.

Lighting

  • Have a bright lamp on as well as using fairy lights and candles so that faces can be seen for lipreading.
  • Not sure if it’s too dark to lipread? Ask the child what lighting they would prefer.

Family sitting together with candles and a tree at Christmas time.

Including deaf children and young people

  • Make sure the subtitles are set up on the TV before watching a film together.
  • If you want to take a family trip to see a pantomime or festive film call the venue in advance to check what equipment they have (room loop, headphones) to help your child access the performance. Visit www.ndcs.org.uk/cinema and www.stagetext.org for information on deaf-friendly showings in your area.
  • On Christmas day, or at a gathering or party, give the child a role, like handing out sweets or giving out presents.
  • When calling friends and relatives on Christmas day, consider video-calling using Skype or Facetime so that the deaf child can join in too.

Mum holds mobile and boy looks at it.

  • In the lead up to Christmas when there’ll be changes to regular routines – concerts, meals out, visiting friends – make sure you let your child know what will happen in advance. Our free Weekly planner can help with this.
  • Games are a great way to include deaf children at Christmas – just make sure they don’t rely too heavily on sound or listening. Quizzes presented in a written or visual format or board games work well. For more ideas visit our Tips for including deaf children in party games page.

And finally…a word on beards

Photo of a little girl pulling at Santa's beard

Beards make lipreading very difficult for deaf children as they cannot see the lip patterns clearly so a trip to see Father Christmas might not impress a deaf child as much as you’d hope! Have a quiet word with the manager of the venue and see if adjustments can be made to help your child, such as Father Christmas wearing a smaller or tidier beard.