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Photo: There are some simple adaptations you can make to a disco to make it deaf-friendly

Schools often hold discos at the end of term and sometimes other celebrations like birthday parties can be disco-themed too. Although they’re a lot of fun, the loud music and darkness can make it challenging and overwhelming for a deaf child.

Beth is mum to a deaf child.

“Discos are challenging, my children used to lie on the floor to feel the vibrations. They also used to take their ‘ears’ out to combat noise distortion so they could concentrate on lip-reading. But there’s still lots of fun to be had!”

Here we have six top tips to make sure your child can fully enjoy their disco experience. You might want to share some of these with your child’s school or a parent hosting a birthday party.

Prepare your child for the disco

Make sure your child has all the right vocabulary associated with discos and dancing, e.g. DJ, flossing and dabbing.

You and your child could listen to some of the songs in advance so that they are familiar with what will be played. TikTok and Fortnite have lots of popular dances too – if your child is old enough it might help to watch some of these videos to learn some new dance moves. It can also be helpful to prepare for any songs with dance cues in the lyrics, like the Cha-Cha Slide or YMCA!

Tina is mum to Charlie (9), who has microtia and moderate hearing loss.

“Previously Charlie has gone to school discos with his bone-anchored hearing aid but more recently he’s told me that he doesn’t want to wear it and I followed his decision. Charlie has hearing loss in just the left ear so he said the music is loud enough to not need his hearing aid. I think he likes the idea that he can ‘turn down the volume’ a bit by not wearing it. He must therefore manage to communicate with friends still despite the music (I think he spends most of the time busting some moves!) Listening to what your child’s experiences are like are important, as only he truly knows what it’s like for him.”

Get there early and with a friend

Ask the school or party host if they’ll let your child come to the disco early. That way they can see the space with the lights on, before the music starts. This should help your child to familiarise themselves with the environment and get comfortable with the set-up.

It’s a good idea to arrive with a friend if possible. That way you’re not trying to locate your child’s friends in a busy, noisy environment.

It might also help to find out if there’s a quiet space where your child can take a break from the music and chat to their friends.

Ask to adapt the disco

There are lots of ways to adapt a disco so it’s more deaf-friendly. Why not ask the disco leader if they’ll try some of the following?

  • If there’s space, another room could have a different type of sensory experience inside. For example, a rotating light ball where light bounces off the walls and floors and the children can jump in and over the patterns.
  • A ‘silent disco’ where the music is streamed through wireless headphones or via a streaming device for a deaf hearing aid or cochlear implant user.
  • Mixing things up during the disco so it’s not just back-to-back music. Perhaps this could include some games that don’t use sound.

Gisela, mum to Maxi (10) who is moderately deaf and wears hearing aids, told us about her son’s end of school celebrations.

“Maxi attended a silent disco to mark the end of primary school and loved being in control of the volume of the music.”

Pass on some simple deaf awareness tips

Ask the DJ to stop the music before they speak so your child can hear them. They could also use visual clues to pass information on to your child, for example pointing out the toilets or snack bar.

If it’s a school disco, this is also a good opportunity to teach the whole school some simple signs to use in noisy situations. They could also learn some signs in class for some of the songs that are going to be played and even put on a signed song performance during the disco!

Beth, mum to a deaf child.

“Always speak to the parents in charge, or the DJ, so they understand why your child might not respond to being spoken to by an adult. Speak to organisers too.”

Ask that the room isn’t completely dark

A dark room will make communication more challenging for your child and may make them feel anxious. Ask the school or party leader to create pools of light around the room, and to make sure that the DJ is well lit.

Reassure your child

It might help to let your child know that many people find it hard to hear at discos, and they won’t be the only one! Encourage them to use gestures or type a message on their phone if they’re finding it hard to communicate.

Beth, mum to a deaf child.

“Explain to your kids what might happen, explain they don’t need to worry, they can overcome any obstacle, get involved and have fun! Also explain that if it gets too much, it’s OK.”