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Part of what makes the holidays so special are traditions that “come but once a year.” We have special décor that decks the halls only in November and December. Special gatherings we look forward to all year long with extended family and friends. From the special food we eat to the songs we sing, it’s the rarity of these things that makes them so precious.
The holidays present unique opportunities for language and learning, but they can also present unique challenges for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Learn tips and suggestions to prepare your child for familiar holiday hurdles — and make the most of what the season has to offer.
For children, the season of wonder is also the season of “I wonder what today will look like?” In the midst of seasonal fun and festivities, normal routines are disrupted — and children thrive in routine. Routines provide the structure and security children need to support their learning and development.
But it’s not all bah-humbug! The holiday season presents many opportunities for new language as well. Each new activity, novel experience, or fresh face of an extended family member can provide a chance to interact and learn.
And these occasions don’t have to come at the cost of your child's progress. In order to make the holidays the most positive experience possible for your child you need a solid game plan.
Here are some tips and tricks we recommend to prepare for the holidays:
Preparing your child for the experiences they’ll encounter during the holidays is the best place to start. Preparing friends and extended family to communicate well with your child gives them a chance to be partners on the journey.
We often want our children to “show” what they know because we’re so proud of their progress. To avoid putting your child on the spot, record their latest skill (be it singing a song or telling a story) on your mobile phone. That way, family members can see without adding unintentional pressure.
If it's been awhile since your child has seen a particular family member, have them record a greeting (“Hi, it’s grandma and I am so excited I get to see you next week!”) or ask them to read a book on video and share it with your child. This will allow your child to become familiar with the person and their voice.
Share photos of family members, friends, and events from previous years. Talk about who they are and what your child experienced with them. “These are your cousins. You loved playing together. That is your aunt. She is coming to our house.” Try an app that will let you add words to photos — and create an electronic storybook you can revisit before holiday events to refresh your child on the people they’ll see.
Talk about the upcoming events and what they can expect. Use objects around the house to show what might be on the table or what food they’ll eat. Consider having family members send videos asking the child open-ended questions they might ask face-to-face. Practice these at home through interactive viewing and discussing.
Children love to pretend, and they learn quickly through play. Create experiences your child can draw from at family events.
It's helpful for your family to know specific strategies you’re using with your child so they can try to use them too. If your child is responding well with closed set choices, family members can be coached to ask questions in that way (“Do you need a fork or a spoon?”). Bring up other LSL strategies and techniques. Encourage family members to practice turn taking in conversations by asking them pause, wait, and lean in. Sharing this with a family member will prepare them to wait long enough to allow your child to think and respond — setting them both up for a better experience.
Whether your family gatherings will be large or small, whether you plan to travel or stay home — whatever your traditions entail, thinking about events in advance helps you stay ahead of the curve during the holidays. Preparing your child and others can make for a special time of learning language and communication. This preparation allows you to focus on the festivities — knowing your child is continuing to learn listening and spoken language.
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