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How do I... help my deaf child enjoy birthday parties?

Photo: Get information on organising parties for deaf children

Jelly and ice cream, party games and presents... most children love celebrations and getting together with their friends, but for a deaf child it can be a difficult experience. Here, some parents share their tips for making sure everyone’s included.

Soft play areas can make life difficult at birthday parties...

Sarah and Tim are parents to Elin (6), who has severe to profound deafness.

"Once Elin turned three, many of her friends from her mainstream nursery invited her to parties. Venues tended to be soft play centres which made life difficult as Elin couldn’t wear her hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Later, Elin ended up with a close group of six friends whose parties she’d go to and as the parents became more deaf aware I felt I could relax more.

Her friends always looked out for her - one friend, Grace, was particularly caring. She would dash on to bouncy castles to get Elin for me or find me if she got into difficulties. She also made sure that Elin knew to follow her when there was a change of activity.

Now that Elin is older and at school, parties are quite different. She attends a specialist deaf school so parties with her school friends tend to be pretty easy as they usually take place at the school and the adults there are all deaf aware.

When she’s occasionally invited to a party by hearing neighbour or cousin it gets more difficult. We went to a party in a gym which was hard as it had a dreadful echo.

Before a recent party I asked the mum what was planned. She said they would be playing musical statues so I asked that she kept sight of Elin during the game and put her hand up to indicate when to stop. I also explained the game to Elin before I left."

I limit the number of children so the noise level won’t be too high...

Abby and John are parents to Letecia (11), who is profoundly deaf in her right ear and Kezia (4), who has moderate to severe hearing loss in her left ear and severe hearing loss in her right ear. 

"We recently held a party for Kezia and I decided to limit the number of children at the party to eight so the noise level wouldn’t be too high for her to cope with.

Just the sound of background music or the tumble dryer on can distort what Kezia is able to hear so I held the party in our house where I could block the background noises out.

I kept the party to a one-hour session because the excitement and the concentration of having to lip-read make Kezia very tired and quite grumpy.

I wanted to run an activity that I knew Kezia would enjoy. She loves music, so I decided to have a singing and signing session. It was a great way to show the other children that learning to sign can be really fun.

We sat in a circle with Kezia facing me so I could direct her to any conversation that was taking place and also sign to her what we were doing and singing. I also used the radio aid which places my voice directly into her ears.

We all learnt how to sign ‘Happy Birthday’ which thrilled Kezia. Everyone really enjoyed learning how to sign and they continue to use it with Kezia now."

I always go and look what the venue is like...

Shakeela is mum to Owess (15) who is hearing; Daniyaal (14) who is profoundly deaf; Amarah (7), who has glue ear and a perforated eardrum, and Zainah (5), who has a mild hearing loss in one ear.

Shakeela’s family celebrates birthdays with days out and trips; she tells us what they do to prepare.

"When I’m planning one of the children’s birthdays I let them choose the activity. If they suggest something that might be difficult, I talk to them about the problems we could encounter. If they still want to do it, we go ahead.

Before we go I look at what the venue is like, what the sound is like, whether there’s much echo and whether it’ll be possible to see the children easily.

Amarah always finds being out extremely noisy so we go out in very small groups – often just with one or two friends.

Daniyaal has a cochlear implant and has to take his processor off for lots of activities, so beforehand we discuss how the activity will be without it and afterwards we talk about how he found it.

Sometimes he’ll realise afterwards that some more support would have been better, so we’ll arrange that for next time."