To watch this article in BSL signed by Jen, scroll down!
So, it’s that time of year again when children go back to school. The dreaded school run can be daunting for any parent, particularly if you’re deaf and feel left out in the playground while everyone’s talking around you. It can be hard to reassure your children that all is well, while you’re struggling a bit yourself, can’t it? I get you.
As a mother of two (hearing) children who are 8 and nearly 6, I thought it might be nice to look back over my school run experiences and perhaps offer a few tips for surviving the new school year. However, I’m not exactly a survival expert or anything like that. I mean, me? I just bumble along and hope for the best. I pointed this out to Charlie, the Limping Chicken editor, who said he didn’t know any survival experts. That’s alright then!
Anyway, here’s my lot; if you have any better ideas, please do share them with us! I know some people don’t want to “do the hearing world”, and that’s cool; your choice, but I hope this might make life on the school run a tiny bit easier for some of those who do…
- Remember you’re not alone.
Really, the main thing for me is to remind myself that hearing people can be shy or nervous too. Everyone has their off days, after all. I’ve taken a step back and looked around the playground… beyond the groups of talking parents, there are always others standing quietly at the back. So, this isn’t just a deaf thing.
- Be brave!
Often when we get to school, I’m feeling a bit stressed or tired and simply not in the mood to talk to people. That can be quite hard work, after all. But, I’m also often in a good mood! So, when I’m feeling up for it, I make the effort to talk to as many people as possible. Yes, we might have a big fat communication breakdown, but I just do it anyway. Then, next time I’m feeling a bit grumpy, the tables are turned and nice people might come and talk to me. It’s a two-way process.
- Use social media!
WhatsApp is great for having a laugh with the other mums of my children’s classmates! I also have to admit that Facebook has been brilliant – we’ve actually got a Facebook group for most of the parents in the whole school (it’s a very small school, which helps a lot). It’s a lovely way to keep in touch and means we can remind each other about important things like having to take a load of cakes to school the next morning, or whatever.
So, why not friend one or two parents that you get on with on Facebook, then take it from there? You could even set up a group yourself – if I can, you can – they’re great and so deaf friendly!
- Give a hand.
Talking of cakes, schools often ask us parents to bake things to sell to raise money or whatever. Baking is a good way to get involved. Maybe you’ll impress everyone with your amazing cakes… or maybe they’ll be a bit rubbish, but at least you’ll have tried anyway. No one will mind!
School events can be great ice breakers. You don’t even have to talk. You can help with setting things up, or tidying things away – there are always loads of things to do and schools’ PTAs are usually grateful for any help that they can get.
- Be the expert!
If any fellow parents can sign a bit, fantastic. Why not help them to practise and improve? Or if they can’t, there’s still bound to be at least one person who’s easy to lipread. I know that most of my hearing friends are naturally easy to lipread, but if they aren’t, there are always other ways to communicate, like by texting each other or even the good old pen and paper method.
Remember, at the end of the day, YOU are an expert at being deaf, because you have lived experience of being deaf. Hearing people aren’t experts at that one, so it’s up to us to help them.
So, good luck, from September and onwards. You can do it!
Jen Dodds is a regular writer for Limping Chicken. When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd (teamhado.com). On Twitter, Jen is @deafpower.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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