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Make school plays deaf-friendly

Photo: Top tips to help deaf children feel included in school plays

We’ve put together some top tips to help deaf children feel included in school plays and to make sure they have a fun experience. Share with teachers, youth or drama club workers, church/religious leaders, and anyone else who may be supporting your child with arts performances.

Giving instructions/direction

  • Stand in one place – it’s difficult for a deaf child to lipread if you move around and they cannot see your face.
  • Position yourself centrally so that everyone can see you – a circle or U shape works best.
  • Ensure the room is well lit and you don’t have a light behind you that puts your face in shadow.
  • Before speaking, try waving to get a deaf child’s attention, turn the lights on and off or stamp on the floor.
  • Turn off any music that is playing before you speak.
  • For more tips on communication see 11 tips for communicating with a deaf child.

Managing cues

  • Visual cues might be best for a deaf child, but some may be able to hear spoken cues – check with the deaf child during rehearsals.
  • Have somebody nearby who can nudge/nod/signal to the deaf child when it’s their cue.
  • Let them have the script/songsheet with them so that they know what the other children are saying and have somebody on hand to point out where they should be if they lose their place.

Costumes

  • Make sure that costumes (on everybody, not just the deaf child) do not cover the whole face as the deaf child will find it hard to lipread.
  • Make sure that the deaf child’s ears aren’t covered – hats and other props may cause hearing aids to feedback and the child may miss their cue if they can’t hear as well as usual.

Including deaf children

  • Include deaf children as much as you would hearing children.
  • Be encouraging – some deaf children will be anxious about taking part.
  • Giving a deaf child a leading role can actually help them follow what’s happening better than a smaller part.
  • You could make sure the deaf child has a buddy to help prompt and encourage them.

Lights out

If the play involves the lights going out:

  • remember to ask the child if they are comfortable/happy with that as some deaf children may find it distressing
  • tell the deaf child that this will be happening and for roughly how long
  • perhaps have a small lamp backstage or make sure that the deaf child will be close to a peer or leader while the lights are off.
  • Use spotlights and other light effects sparingly and with care! If a deaf child is relying on visual cues, they may be dazzled by strong lighting and not be able to see very well.

How technology can help

  • Consider using a microphone to help with projection of voice if the deaf child is concentrating on speaking clearly.
  • Wear radio aids or microphones without being reminded by the deaf child – they might be embarrassed to ask.
  • Click here for more information on technology and products.

Further information and resources