’tis the Season
Welcome to the hustle and bustle that is the last five weeks of the year. Retailers redecorate and advertise their hearts out to make their last 20% of annual profits. Children make out lists, now rummaging through online catalogs rather than paper ones (remember the Christmas edition of Sears & Roebuck?). Homes and offices get a fresh layer of evergreens, holly berries, snowflakes, and a generally polite competition between reindeer and camels. (Thanks to Kelsey, our resident elf, for decorations a’plenty.) Advent candles, cookies, and preparations for Christmas pageants round out the list.
If you’re a deaf person in a hearing household, especially a child, the season can be more frustrating than festive. From the family gathering around the Thanksgiving table to the variety of parties at church, school, and aunt Lollie’s house, to the New Year’s countdown, the sense of being outside the action can get overwhelming. Conversations happen all around, punctuated with laughter and loaded with memories. In the Christmas pageant, you get relegated to the role of sheep or donkey, not because you’re brilliant at portraying barn animals, but because it’s an easy decision.
Ok, time to turn this around – both in the article, and in the holidays of deaf children. Here are a few ideas to actively include deaf children (of all ages) in the family fun this year. The more visual, the better…
- tour neighborhood light displays
- have teams assemble gingerbread houses (or a gingerbread train) using graham crackers, frosting, and assorted candy
- get simple jigsaw puzzles from the dime store, then have teams race to assemble them – make a puzzle tournament
- wrap dime store trinkets individually, and play a gift trading game
- get dime store trinkets and roll them into a giant saran wrap ball, then play games, draw cards, or roll dice to see who gets to peel the saran wrap back to the next gift
- act out Christmas stories without words
- draw/color pictures from the Christmas stories, mix them up, pass them out, and help children put them in the right order
- use photos, sketching, and mime to tell favorite stories… imagine what you can do with all those advertisements and candy catalogs!
- break out the old classics like Candyland, Uno, Sorry, and Rack-O…if there are many people, make a tournament of games
- play charades, but give everyone a tablet & sharpie to write their guesses
The key is to make choices that invite deaf loved ones to be more involved without giving them an uncomfortable level of focus. As hearing people, we often don’t think about how much we rely on our ears any more than a fish thinks about his dependence on water. Many deaf people, like fish on shore, don’t escape this reality, and it becomes burdensome during the holidays when they’re alone among the people who love them most.
P.S. – let’s not forget that aunt Lollie doesn’t hear as well as she used to. Though she may not admit it, she’ll appreciate being able to share in all the visual fun.