During the pandemic, it’s important to remain connected with your community, however, for young deaf and hard of hearing people – this can be difficult at the best of times. Often, they are the only one in their family, school or workplace that is deaf or hard of hearing.
The need to be mindful and stay okay during these times is essential for deaf and hard of hearing young people. For Bianca, a parent to a deaf child, it is critical to understand the difficulties that restrictions may present for deaf and hard of hearing young people.
“There are challenges we face: feeling isolated from community, family and friends.”
In these times, it can be difficult for deaf and hard of hearing young people to meet friends that share their experiences of deafness.
For young people, staying connected matters. One of the most important ways to remain connected and in touch during lockdown has been digital technology, which can also bring about its own challenges.
However, it’s important to also have access to social face to face opportunities, to ensure they enjoy the benefits this brings – it offers the chance to learn from others, share stories and experiences, have a laugh, and to know they are not the only one experiencing challenges.
“When we’re unable to meet and have face to face interactions, it can be hard for deaf and hard of hearing young people. During restrictions, it’s important for all of us to have access to those social connections, to feel part of a community that understand what you are going through – staying connected can really make a world of difference.”
Bianca highlighted the importance of access to Auslan interpreters and captions on the news or other broadcasts announcing updates, breaking news, and this applies to social media too – where not all videos have captions.
“We need to have conversations around current situations, so our children are aware of what is going on – and know they are not alone right now with the challenges we’re all facing.”
Listening fatigue is real. It is exhausting trying to lipread and listen for a child that utilises a device. This can happen in face-to-face learning, and via online classes too. This can lead to listening and concentration fatigue.
“There are a few steps you can take to decrease listening fatigue: Being aware of the signs, minimising background noise, and creating quiet space,” Bianca suggests. “It’s important, especially with deaf and hard of hearing children, to know your child’s limits – and to know when they need to take a break and recharge.”
Learning from home can be challenging as not all learning platforms are deaf and hard of hearing friendly. Sometimes, learning platforms do not provide captions, or access to Auslan interpreters. Completing tasks on a device can also provide distraction for children, as they may find it hard to stay on task.
“Throughout the period of lockdown including last year, like everyone – there has been waves of motivation and striving for personal goals and periods of not being motivated. For deaf kids though, accessibility can impact motivation. At times it has been challenging to keep motivated when full access is not always provided,” Bianca stated.
“It’s important to have an open conversation with teachers if you have any concerns in regards to online learning and access for your child. Providing accurate access for your child can keep them motivated.”
For Bianca and her family, these times have helped them to learn to appreciate the smaller things in life – and to enjoy a slower pace. In our fast-paced online world, one of the most important self-care tools is the act of simply taking a break.
Find out more about the stories of our Parent Mentors, and information on raising a deaf or hard of hearing child, at www.flyingcolours.org.au