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Top tips for making discos deaf-friendly

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 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. Here we have five top tips to help you make a disco more deaf-friendly. You might want to share some of these with your child’s school or a parent running a birthday party.

1. Prepare your child for the disco

Make sure your child has all the right vocabulary associated with discos and dancing e.g. flossing or dabbing. It may also help to listen to some of the songs in advance so they’re familiar with what will be played.

2. 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’ll hopefully arrive before the music is on and the lights are off. They can familiarise themselves with the environment and also feel comfortable with the set-up.

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

3. 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 is 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’. This is 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.
4. 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!

5. Ask that the room isn’t completely dark

A dark room will make communication more challenging for your child and also may make them feel anxious. Ask the school or party leader not to have the room completely dark by creating pools of light and making sure that the DJ is well lit.