Staying Connected While Physically Distant

By Rabab Elbaharia

Since my daughter was identified as hard of hearing, our family has decided to take every possible opportunity to be part of the Deaf and hard of hearing community. We have always found this connection valuable throughout the journey.

With the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic situation, many aspects of life have become more difficult as we’ve been asked to adjust to a new reality. As adults, we’re able to read and understand the facts of what’s happening, but a lot of us have struggled to explain to our children why things changed suddenly and so dramatically. Fortunately, one of the things that has helped our children to adjust is to stay connected via technology.

As a mother of a hard of hearing 6-year-old kindergartener, I feel extremely grateful for technology (although I know we have all suffer Zoom fatigue at some point). It has kept my daughter connected to her community and to the professionals who work with her. She has found great relief in this connection during this difficult time.

Luckily our daughter is enrolled in a kindergarten run by one of the three early intervention agencies, which we are truly grateful for. When school transitioned to an online format, her teachers were nothing but supportive. Online learning brought about daily videos of morning circles and story time that allowed Salma to continue her daily routine and keep her learning on track. Moreover, Friday dance parties gave her true joy when she spent some afternoon time dancing and having fun with her classmates and teachers.

This unusual situation also made Salma’s 6th birthday quite unique. Graciously, her teacher arranged an online party to celebrate her, and her classmates and their families sent her their best wishes, even sharing a virtual birthday gift.

One of the additional perks that came with transitioning towards more online learning was the sibling ASL and conversational ASL courses we were able to access, which gave us a chance as a family to refresh our ASL skills.

Salma’s speech language pathologist put enormous effort into modifying her sessions with Salma to make them online compatible. Not only has she helped Salma with her speech but she also provided Salma with much needed reinforcement to keep her hearing aid on. Thanks to technology our amazing audiologist was also able to keep checking on us and helped me trouble-shoot many issues that arose with Salma’s equipment during the lockdown period.

As well, I found comfort when parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing kids reached out to each other not only through virtual parent meetings but also by arranging for virtual playdates for the kids. These playdates have been such a delight for Salma to be a part of.

In addition, Salma took part in a series of online camps (camp in a box), hosted by the Family Network for Deaf Children and their summer program, Deaf Youth Today. The camp was full of surprises and managed to keep Salma thrilled and excited, with the promise of new interesting activities every day.

Clearly, although we are all physically apart, technology is helping to ensure that we are connected more than ever in different ways. It has allowed us to take part in most of our usual festivities, despite the unfortunate circumstances. It is these difficult times that bring people together by not only nurturing our personal connections, but also by encouraging us to come up with new ways to stay connected.

 

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