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Making Christmas deaf-friendly

Photo: We have tips to help deaf children and young people feel included at Christmas

Times of celebration and get-togethers with friends and family can be a difficult time for deaf children and young people. Whether it’s Christmas, a birthday, wedding or any other festivity, children can find themselves feeling left out. They may also be spending time with people who aren’t very deaf aware in noisy and busy situations.

So, we’ve put together some top tips to help you make deaf children and young people feel included at Christmas time. You may want to share these with family, friends, teachers, youth club workers, or anyone else who’ll be spending time with your child during the festive season.

Mealtimes
  • Use tablecloths to absorb sound from clattering cutlery.
  • Think about positioning – can the child see everyone clearly to lipread or read sign? A round table is ideal so that everyone can see each other.
  • Speak one at a time.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full or cover your mouth when speaking.
  • Put your cutlery down from time to time to sign.
  • Be aware that a deaf child may choose to eat all their food and then get involved in conversation rather than trying to follow while eating.
  • Let the child know what the topic of conversation is so that they can follow more easily.
  • When eating out, ask for a table in a quiet, well-lit area of the restaurant.
  • At a restaurant, the waiting staff often engage in small talk which the child can miss, so be ready to interpret for them so that they know what’s being said.
  • Encourage your child to ask the waiting staff or host for what they want – try not to order/ask for them.
  • Choose somewhere to eat that has visual children’s menus that the child can point to.
Friends and family

Have a chat with any friends and family you’ll be seeing to remind them of what they need to do to include your deaf child. You might want to give them our deaf-awareness flyer.

Encourage them to brush up on their British Sign Language (BSL) – even if they learn how to fingerspell their name or a few festive signs, this will mean a lot to a deaf child. We have a fingerspelling postcard so they can learn too. 

Background noise
  • Keep music on low or turn it off completely during conversation and mealtimes.
  • Is the background music making it too hard to communicate? Ask the child what level is okay for them.
Lighting
  • Have a bright lamp on as well as using fairy lights and candles so that faces can be seen for lipreading.
  • Not sure if it’s too dark to lipread? Ask the child what lighting they would prefer.
Including deaf children and young people
  • Make sure the subtitles are set up on the TV before watching a film together.
  • If you want to take a family trip to see a pantomime or festive film call the venue in advance to check what equipment they have (room loop, headphones etc.) to help your child access the performance.
  • On Christmas day, or at a gathering or party, give the child a role, like handing out sweets or giving out presents.
  • When calling friends and relatives on Christmas day, consider video-calling using Skype or Facetime so that the deaf child can join in too.
  • In the lead up to Christmas when there’ll be changes to regular routines – concerts, meals out, visiting friends – make sure you let your child know what will happen in advance. 
  • Games are a great way to include deaf children at Christmas – just make sure they don’t rely too heavily on sound or listening. Quizzes presented in a written or visual format or board games work well.
And finally… a word on beards

Beards make lip-reading very difficult for deaf children as they can’t see the lip patterns clearly so a trip to see Father Christmas might not impress a deaf child as much as you’d hoped. Have a quiet word with the manager of the venue and see if adjustments can be made to help your child, such as Father Christmas wearing a smaller or tidier beard.