Change is in the air; the school year is ending, the flowers are blooming, the days are getting longer and hotter. What does this all mean? To some, change is a great thing. No more waking up early to go to school. No more going to bed at an early time, because you have a busy day ahead. No more schedules, plans, rules. No more brown grass and dull yards. The yards are starting to overflow with texture and color. How could any of this not be good?
Change has many positive attributes, but for some, change is scary. It is the unknown. You get comfortable with what you know and have been doing for the last year or last five years. What if you don't like the new that is to come?
Children with hearing loss have an extra hard time with change. If their language is limited and their experiences with life are limited, their ability to predict or connect may be lesser than those with hearing. On the other hand, children with hearing overhear their parents talk about upcoming summer vacation, summer plans, and summer camps. They know that there is a countdown until school is over. Children with normal hearing often partake in the ritual of gardening and changing the yard over to spring and summer.
Odd as it may sound; children with hearing loss miss out on a lot of these activities. Often, they don't overhear parents ask if they want to go to the garden store. They might not know that Steins is a place to get garden items, so when Mom or Dad asks if they want to come along, they might just say no. Often parents of younger children with hearing loss don't get a reaction verbally right away, so they might stop asking.
Children with hearing loss need information related to spring and the end of school to be laid out in a purposeful manner. Children with hearing loss do not overhear the information that kids with hearing do, so they might not even be aware of so much. You know you don't like it if someone comes and tells you, "Ok, time to go" when you are in the middle of eating a big chocolate cake or watching your favorite show. If you have hearing, you are able to hear your mom or dad cleaning up the dinner dishes and packing their bags into the car. This gives you a subtle hint that soon you will be going somewhere. Internally, you may even be able to rationalize that you better get your shoes and socks on because Mom will be coming to get you soon. Kids with hearing loss don't know about all of these cues, so they sit engrossed in the activity at hand. Transitions are incredibly difficult for deaf/hh kids if there is no warning.
Please take time to explain what you are doing next, where you are going, and why. Picture schedules help little ones know what is coming up. For example, dinner is finished and the next item on the chart is a bath. The child then knows that soon after dinner is done, he or she needs a bath. This helps transition to the next activity. You can create a countdown chart for the end of the school year. He or she can help cross off days and count down. Your child also may have some difficulty understanding that one thing ends, but you may go back again. Remind them that he will return to school in the fall, or show him his new school if he is moving on.
It sounds silly, perhaps, but these little extras you do will make for a smoother transition for your child and a happier house! Please leave your suggestions on how you make the transitions easier for your child with hearing loss in the comments below.
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.