Moving away from home can be both exciting and nerve-wracking for any teen. It often involves lots of planning, and there can be even more to consider when you’re deaf. If your teen is ready to move out, there are lots of ways to help them prepare and stay safe.
Dad Phil gives us his top tips about how he supported his daughter Jodie (20), who was born profoundly deaf, move away from home.
If your child is moving out to their own place, or university accommodation, Phil recommends getting any contracts set up in advance.
“Arrange tenancy agreements prior to your child moving. Use email to get all the information so you have it in writing and get someone with experience to read what you’re signing up for.”
If in rental accommodation, make sure your teen has the lettings agent or landlord’s mobile number. This means they can text them if there are any issues, rather than struggle with a phone call.
Emily (19), who is profoundly deaf, explains the challenge she had in speaking to estate agents.
“My mum helped me a lot. It was all very last minute because I had the job interview and then in two months I had to move. I’d only been to Birmingham twice before! It was stressful looking for a house; it was far from my home so we only had one day to do viewings.
We had to keep emailing estate agents and often they wouldn’t check their inboxes. We couldn’t call so we’d use the Next Generation Text service (NGTS) to call – you type to the relay assistant who speaks your words to the person you’re calling and then types their reply to you.”
As your teen moves out, there will be a lot for them to learn and it’s important they feel confident by themselves. Phil practiced different elements of independent living with his daughter to prepare.
“Your young person may be doing some basic life skills for the first time. This includes paying bills, going to the bank or doing a supermarket shop. Rehearse them and become familiar with how organisations operate. When shopping, speaking to complete strangers in noisy environments can cause stress and anxiety. Consider using self-service tills where possible and pay by card if you can to cut out confusing interaction with cashiers wearing masks.”
“It was hard not being able to use the phone as well, I couldn’t ring the GP and it was hard to stay in touch with people at home. NGTS is a godsend for that, I’ve used it lots.”
Moving out often involves extra expenses your teenager may have never had to think about before too. This includes food costs, bills and council tax.
It’s useful to know what benefits and financial support they are eligible for and they know how to budget. For example, setting up Wi-Fi, council tax, gas and electric. Not all communications will be deaf-friendly. You can find out more about helping your teen manage their money here.
Emily explains that this was a real challenge for her.
“The main challenges were sorting out letters about Council Tax or bills. I found the English jargon was hard for me to understand because I mainly use British Sign Language (BSL) now. I had to look up what words meant and ask other people’s advice on what to do.”
Your teen’s new accommodation needs to be deaf-friendly and safe and they will need to make sure there are appropriate security systems in place.
It’s a good idea to check what your local fire department or local authority will provide for your teen’s home. They can sometimes help install strobe flashing alarms, technology or systems free of charge.
Emily’s housemate Francesca is also deaf so between them they made sure to install the technology they needed in their new home.
“Technology helped us a lot. We have a smoke alarm that wakes us up through vibration if there’s a fire, vibrating alarm clocks and a flashing doorbell. It was a main priority for us when we moved in, we got in touch with Deaf Services and they installed them.”
You can also get deaf-friendly fire alarm systems online, from shops like Connevans or from charities. Make sure your teen tests the alarm with their hearing technology off and eyes closed, and that they check it’s working regularly.
If your teen is moving to university halls, it’s the university’s responsibility to make sure all their accommodation is safe. When Phil’s daughter moved out to university accommodation, he made sure it had deaf-friendly safety features.
“Check the accommodation has a suitable fire alarm system. It’s also useful to draw up a risk assessment to include other students, staff and security personnel to make sure any deaf person is aware of an alarm.”
You or your teen will need to contact the university prior to arrival and well in advance to ensure everything is in place for when they arrive.
Florence (18), who is profoundly deaf, explains how she set herself up in student accommodation at the University of Birmingham.
“I worried about not hearing fire alarms and things in my flat. But the university gave me a fire alerter that vibrates when it hears the fire alarm. I also have a special doorbell; it flashes and it’s really loud. Actually things like that are quite a good ice breaker. On the first few days people would ring our flat doorbell to say hi and everyone would find the loud doorbell quite funny so then I could explain it. It was a good talking point. Now when I’m in group conversations I’ll notice someone remember and turn to look at me when they’re speaking.”
Knowing how to contact the emergency services is vital for any young person living away from home. EmergencySMS is a service which lets you contact 999 by text. They’ll give your message to the police, ambulance, fire service or coastguard.
You will need to register your mobile phone before you can use emergencySMS. To register your phone:
- Text ‘REGISTER’ to 999.
- You will get a text message back.
- Read the message and make sure you understand it.
- Reply ‘YES’ to 999.
- You will get a text to confirm that you’re registered.
If you’re in an emergency, text 999 to tell them what service you need, what the emergency is and your address. For example:
‘Ambulance. Man having a heart attack. Outside post office. Valley road Watford.’
Visit emergencySMS to find out more.
If your teen is moving away from home for the first time, they might need more technology than before. If they’ve been used to you or family members waking them up or letting them know when someone’s at the door, they will need to look at how technology can help them instead.
Phil looked at different types of technology that could help his daughter whilst she was living alone.
“Vibrating alarms, mobiles, FitBits or watches are all viable options to act as alarm clocks. They will still sleep in occasionally, but it helps.”
“My daughter used to have notes put under her door to catch her attention. Strobe doorbells are a good addition. They can be useful in halls of residence so friends can contact your child.”
Your teen can also borrow technology for free using our Technology Test Drive to find out which products work for them before moving out.
Getting around when you’re no longer living at home can be a new learning curve for your teen. There are lots of options and Phil tried some out with Jodie before she left home.
“Once your child has moved out, ‘Dad’s taxi’ may not be an option anymore! Practise travelling on public transport under supervision. Make sure you download travel planner apps on your phones ready for the town you are moving to. Research transport routes, times and stop locations. Have a practise walk in advance to time journeys. Try to cut out the stress before it happens.
Cycle or driving lessons are also options. Independence is important and being in charge of your own travel can alleviate anxiety caused by public transport.”
Emily adds that the commute to work was initially a challenge for her.
“I’ve missed trains because I haven’t heard announcements. I find using the Trainline app useful or asking staff, although sometimes I just have to follow the crowd and hope for the best!”
Visit our page on independent travel for more tips for your teen.
Moving away from home and your friends or family can be challenging at first. When your teen starts living independently, maintaining their existing relationships can help them with feelings of isolation. Encourage them to stay in touch with friends and family regularly via text message, video calls or meeting up. This will help your teen stay connected and feel supported. If they’ve moved away to university, joining societies or sports clubs can help them make new friends nearby too.
If your teen is feeling isolated while living independently, they can find out more about looking after their mental health and getting support here.
“My parents are a lot more confident about me living independently now, they know I can manage anything and see me as a strong person.” Find out more about how Emily’s family supported her in moving out to a brand new city when she was 19.