Making spirits bright: Party preparation for children with hearing loss

by Jessica Klein, MS, CCC-SLP

The holiday season is here. Although traditions differ amongst families, one common experience shared between many is getting together with loved ones.

Holiday get-togethers are often exciting and fun, but for children with hearing loss they can also be overwhelming and challenging. Unfamiliar faces, a noisy setting and difficulty keeping up with conversations are just a few of the factors that can make a holiday party stressful for a child with hearing loss. Below are some tips to implement in preparation for the holidays. Some can be introduced in the therapy room, but all are helpful suggestions to pass along to parents to work on at home to make holiday gatherings enjoyable for all:

  • Talk to the child about who will be attending the get-together. Often holiday parties include unfamiliar relatives (ex: aunts, uncles and cousins who live far away). Show the child pictures of these family members and review their names. Practice not only remembering each name but saying them clearly, too.
  • Familiarize the child with vocabulary that they will likely hear at the party and throughout the holiday season (ex: eggnog, mistletoe, poinsettia). Show the child these objects and explain their meaning. Similarly, teach the child about holiday traditions they may experience at the party such as playing a holiday game (ex: “Rob Your Neighbor”) or singing holiday songs (ex: “Jingle Bells”).
  • Encourage self-advocacy. Inform the child that the party will likely be noisy due to a lot of people and background noise. Discuss what to say when they do not hear what was said. Urge them to not be embarrassed by their device(s) but instead to tell others about them and how they help them.
  • Have a plan for seating. If possible, talk to the host ahead of time about what the arrangements will look like (ex: Will there be a kids’ table? Will there be long or circular tables? Will everyone be in one room or in separate rooms?). Tell the child what to expect and then talk about where the best place for them to sit will be. Consider if there is a better ear, where people will be the most visible and other factors specific to the child’s hearing loss. Also consider having a sibling or familiar family member sit next to the child to help when pieces of the conversation are missed.
  • Find a quiet place. Listening in noisy and new situations is exhausting. Help the child find a place to unwind and take a break.
  • If traveling, remember to pack the essentials: extra batteries, a charger, a dry aid kit and if you have one, an FM/DM system. The FM/DM capabilities may be helpful in the noisy holiday environment.

Different aspects of the holiday season can be stressful for everyone, but time spent with loved ones shouldn’t be. With a little bit of planning and preparation, holiday get-togethers can be what they are intended to be: fun and enjoyable for all!

Jessica Klein began working as a speech-language pathologist at CID in 2004, assessing and treating children from birth to age 12. Klein co-wrote the “Targeting Speech Skills for Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing” workshop, presenting annually at CID as well as at Southeast Missouri State University and the Missouri Speech and Hearing Association conference. In 2011, she accepted a job as a speech-language pathologist at a St. Louis charter school. While in the public school setting, Klein assessed and provided services to students with varying speech and language needs. She was a member of the school’s CARE team, collaborating with teachers and specialists to develop interventions for students struggling in the classroom. In 2015, she returned to CID ready to share her public school experiences with colleagues to help better prepare CID students for mainstream settings. Since her return, she has written a webinar about developing literacy skills in children who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as spoken about literacy skills and case managing students who are deaf and hard of hearing at Fontbonne University. She became associate coordinator of the CID Emerson Center for Professional Development in 2017.

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