Going on a day out can be lots of fun for your deaf child, and for you too. You might be planning a day out as a special treat to a wildlife park, a theme park or a museum. Perhaps you’re staying closer to home and going out for dinner or on a bike ride? Whatever plans you have for your day out, we hope these tips help you and your deaf child to prepare.
Sara is mum to Charlotte (7), who is profoundly deaf.
“We love day trips as a family. On days out we talk about directions, we make decisions on whether to eat a picnic or in a restaurant, and sometimes we give Charlotte pocket money to practise maths. It’s all a learning experience, regardless of your educational level, teaching ability or budget.”
It can be helpful to think in advance about the environments you’re going to on a day out, in relation to your child’s deafness.
If you’re going to a restaurant, it may be noisy so your child may struggle to communicate. This could be because there are lots of people chatting, loud background music or a noisy air conditioning unit. Perhaps you could speak to the restaurant in advance and ask them to seat you at a quiet table? This can help you and your child enjoy conversation over dinner. If your child has a radio aid, this could also help in a restaurant environment. If you’re out for food with another family, sharing some top tips on communicating with a deaf child can help.
Louise is profoundly deaf.
“The older I got, the more I found myself feeling isolated around the dinner table… There was so much chatter around the table with multiple conversations going on. I often sat quietly and just ate the food on my plate. Sometimes I would get included in the conversation but couldn’t hear through all the noise… Speak at a good volume with clarity and at an appropriate pace. If we don’t understand you the first time, rephrase what you’ve said. You can write it down or type it out on your phone. Maybe have a go at learning some basic sign language to include your loved ones too? Some simple deaf awareness goes a long way.”
If you’re going swimming, to the beach or to a water park your child may need to remove their hearing technology to avoid it getting wet. It can be helpful to have a plan for safely storing hearing technology. Alternatively, your child may have an aqua kit to enable them to use their technology in water. Find out more about swimming and hearing technology here.
It can also be helpful to have a plan for communicating when your child removes their hearing technology. Some basic signs can really help. This might be British Sign Language or a few homemade signs to enable you to exchange basic information, such as for your child to tell you they need the toilet or for you to tell your child they have five more minutes.
Read Nicky’s blog on adapting water play for deaf children. Nicky and Isabelle (2) are both profoundly deaf.
“Though most children jump straight into the pool, we have a few precautions to take first… While out and about we always use a retainer clipped to her clothing to make sure we don’t lose her processors. This doesn’t work on the aqua kit but it does come with an alternative clip which loops through and clips to her costume. Being a little more bulky, it doesn’t sit on her ear as easily and does fall off more. This presented a conundrum when we recently went to Centre Parcs. Being the trainee stuntwoman that she is, we knew she’d want to go on all the water slides. I researched additional retention devices, such as headbands, head ties and hats. There’s so many options, ultimately it’s just what works for the individual. I decided to go with a simple fabric Zoggs swim cap.”
Hester, mum to Harold, recommends taking certain situations slower.
“It can be quite a shock for our son to see something coming round a corner without being able to prep them first. At the zoo, a lion was about to walk past the window and we were able to tell our daughter but the first time Harold knew about it was when he could see it. It wasn't a problem then but did make me think about other times when this could shock, upset, or worry him.”
A great day out can get derailed if a deaf child’s cochlear implants or batteries run out. Having some spare batteries can really save the day!
Your child might also have to remove their hearing technology during your day out, for swimming or in very loud environments for example. Bring a storage case with you and make sure your child knows that if they want to remove their hearing technology they must let you know. If you and your child would like them to keep their hearing technology on but don’t want to risk losing a hearing aid or cochlear implant processor, a clip or band will help keep it in place.
Finding a hearing aid in a ball pit can be a challenge!
Lots of venues, such as theatres, museums and science centres, are working hard to improve their accessibility and to be deaf-friendly. Many attractions have information on their website about accessibility. This might be listed under ‘Visitor Accessibility’, ‘Access Information’ or something similar. Some attractions have made adaptations to support deaf visitors. This includes hearing loops, BSL Interpretation, subtitles, transcripts or being part of the Sunflower Lanyard scheme.
It might be nice to go somewhere that is really working to meet the needs of your deaf child. If the venue falls a bit short, you can provide feedback to help them improve in future.
If a deaf child feels as though they have helped or influenced the choice of day trip, they’re more likely to feel comfortable in the environment. If they have any concerns, planning together can be a good way to identify these and overcome them.
Days out can be a great way to communicate with your child and this can really enhance their vocabulary. You might like to think about new words you could teach your deaf child related to the day trip.
Hester also tells us about some of the challenges communicating on a day out and some ideas to overcome them.
“We keep his pram forward-facing so that he sees us when we’re walking about and we can communicate with him.
When you're out and about it’s likely that your hands are full, so signing can be more difficult and their attention is often elsewhere, so if you really want to sign something to them you have to really work to get their attention.”