Holidays with Deaf Loved Ones

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Holidays with Deaf Loved Ones

The holidays have arrived, and for many, this is a time to be with your loved ones, show appreciation, and share a meal or two! However, the holidays are often dreaded by deaf and hard of hearing family members and friends. Lack of access to conversations and activities is often frustrating and isolating, especially for D/HH children. The feeling of “Dinner Table Syndrome,” described in a recent article as “the phenomenon in which ‘deaf people are left out of conversations,'” is now even more prevalent due to mask and quarantine mandates to protect against the coronavirus.

The global pandemic has exacerbated the mental health needs of deaf and hard of hearing people, and the holidays can be hard for some. If you have a friend or loved one struggling, please encourage them to reach out to National Deaf Therapy (NDT). NDT provides mental health services from licensed deaf therapists in a completely virtual environment. For more information, visit their website: www.nationaldeaftherapy.com.

National Deaf Therapy

The pandemic will also be changing the way most people celebrate the holiday this year. Safety is paramount, so many people will be opting for virtual or smaller, socially-distanced gatherings. If you decide to celebrate in-person, be sure to reference these CDC guidelines on how to have a safe event. You can also call CSD’s COVID-19 hotline for more information.  

Regardless of how or where you celebrate your holidays, you can actively reduce the feeling of isolation and exclusion for your loved ones. Many activities are both accessible and fun for everyone! Try incorporating some of these inclusive and accessible ideas:  

Learn Sign Language

Get the whole crew to join in and prioritize communication access this holiday season. Check out National Association for the Deaf’s resources or ASL Connect to help you get started!

There are [multiple] apps for that!

Technology has come a long way. Download these apps to help facilitate conversations at home:  

Alternatively, if you’re the quill and feather type, make sure you have plenty of pens and paper on hand to communicate the old-fashioned way. Sharing whiteboards makes writing back and forth fun and eco-friendly, too!  

Subtitle this!  

Whether it’s playing games or watching movies, keep the closed-captions on so that everyone can enjoy it.  

Jackbox Games has a new closed-captioning feature, and the new Spiderman game features a signing Spiderman! For a list of more deaf-friendly games, check out this list from Deaf Friendly 

Keep the subtitles on when watching TV or watch some of these movies with deaf or signing characters:  

AVA App

The Dragon Prince

Captions not included on trailer

Karaoke and stories in sign language

Deaf people love music! You can have a sing and sign-off. Or if you think you might be out of tune, no worries! This playlist has both songs and stories for your holiday fun.

For more music in ASL, keep this playlist on repeat!

Small acts of kindness

Gestures are an excellent way to show that you care about someone. Ask your guests to be respectful and empathetic. Consider the ways you’ve felt isolated or frustrated throughout the pandemic, and use that experience to motivate your guests to create an inclusive and attentive environment for everybody. Take a moment to keep your deaf guests up-to-date about the ongoing conversation. If they miss something, repeat it rather than saying “never mind” or “I’ll tell you later.”

Taking steps to actively include your deaf or hard of hearing family member or friends in everything you do and encouraging your guests to do the same is more important than ever. These past few months, we have all been reminded of the value of human connection. We all want to feel included and every effort counts.  From CSD’s family to yours, we wish you a safe, healthy, and accessible holiday together!  

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