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Sick days

Published Date: 11 Jan 2024

It’s that time of year again, bugs galore! If, like mine, your children are in nursery or school, you’ll know the drill. I’ve put together a few of the most useful things I’ve found in looking after my deaf son throughout this season.

Earlier this year, our British Sign Language (BSL) tutor was teaching in our local deaf children’s club. She recommended learning, and making sure our children learn, BSL signs for describing pain and illness. This has proven really helpful for my family as we’ve navigated colds, bugs and cochlear implant surgery since then. Now my son can tell me when and where something hurts, as well as how he’s feeling more generally. Words and phrases like 'too hot/cold', 'sick', 'really sore/a wee bit sore' let me help him more effectively. It gives him a little independence, and me clarity and confidence.

BSL has been an essential generally for us, but especially so when my son is ill. The first thing he does when he’s feeling rubbish is take off his processors. In general, he’s happy to wear them, but being ill is exhausting enough without the added strain of listening fatigue, so we give him the choice of removing his processors whenever he wants. It means he can rest up while still having full access to communication.

Another way we survive sickness season is to keep one of our daily routines: describing what the day will look like in advance. We just do a quick rundown of whatever we have planned, a similar idea to a 'now and next' board found in nurseries and schools. My son likes to know what the plan is in advance, and it helps when he’s off nursery and the day looks different to our normal.

When he’s unwell, the plan is very flexible and can look something like, “First we’ll go downstairs, then I’m going to phone the doctor and we’ll go and see them later.” Especially for things he isn’t used to, like a GP appointment, it helps us to be clear about the plan. My hearing son might overhear me phoning the GP and put together the plan, or hear me and their dad chatting about it, but my deaf son doesn’t overhear information in the same way, so it’s helpful if we explicitly tell him.

Cosy film afternoons, reading books under blankets on the sofa and playing with Playmobil are other favourite ways we get through it. Not deaf specific, but universally comforting ways to feel better!


Kirsten and her husband Abraham are parents to Christopher (7) and Benjamin (4). Benjamin is profoundly deaf and uses British Sign Language (BSL). He now wears cochlear implants.