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Kids at home: Tips & Fun Games. (for children with hearing aids or cochlear implants)

Welcome, welcome! I’m Dr. Lilach Saperstein. This is the All About Audiology Facebook group. I’m super grateful that you’re here. March 16, 2020. This live video is coming to you from Israel, where we are in semi social isolation, social distancing. It’s not quarantine, no one is sick thankfully, but we do have all schools closed like most places. I have my three children home with me, they are five, three and two years old. We are very tired out after a long, happy day of being intentionally present and enjoying each other, but also taking appropriate breaks, not obsessing over a very strict schedule.

The point of this video is number one, to do a check in with you guys. Oh my goodness, just saying those words makes me feel like my mind is going so quickly, I have so many things I want to share with everyone, but reminding myself that all the work we do is that it always starts with “Number One”, yourself. I have to remind myself to do a check-in especially now, because we are not sure about the uncertainty.

I want to end off with some ideas of what to do, more specifically some listening games, things that you might do perhaps in therapy with your speech therapist or AVTs (Auditory Verbal Therapist). You can bring them home with you into your daily homeschooling/social isolation routine.

We’re going to start off with our check in. It’s a very quick process, I can do it very quickly and that’s the point. We don’t want to take out the meditation pillow and the sand bowls. There is a time for that. But being a mom in social isolation with young kids at home is not the time for that. For me, it goes like this. I feel (insert the first emotion that pops in your head). The second sentence I say is, my belly feels (insert what you feel). Sometimes it’s churning, or there is tightness or heaviness. The third sentence is what do I feel in my chest. Tightness, squeezing, calmness. Sometimes that one happens. So, I just do this three-sentence thing. Put an emotion or feeling to each question. I just do a quick little checklist.

I also recently posted this to the Instagram and that’s going around. I’m so excited that people are learning about my super quick check-in and it’s becoming a collective check-in. Right now, I feel really grateful. There just came this well of gratitude that I felt about us being really healthy and being in a good position to be talking about this stuff. We’re not in any acute crisis, thankfully. We are well. So, I just felt super grateful. My belly feels full and happy from pizza that we ate earlier. I also feel in my belly a sense of calm, I have full, deep breaths in there. My chest is feeling a little heavy actually. I feel like I have a lot to say, I have a lot of words that I want to get out. Sometimes, that just sits there in my chest. If anyone wants to send me that, you’re welcome to.

I also like to think about and have ahead of time a list of things that I’m very good at doing, that I know how to do, that are really easy and take less than fifteen minutes, that can help me to come back into this body. Some of the easy ones are:

  • take a shower
  • listen to your favorite song
  • journaling
  • praying
  • cuddling with a pet

or anything that you feel that you can take ten minutes or something that isn’t a long time for self-care. Sometimes it’s just drinking a glass of water. Self-care doesn’t mean you have to sit and take a luxurious bubble bath, unless you want to. But we have access to other self-care type activities all the time, even as easy as doing a self-check-in and now you see that you matter too and notice that you are here, as you run around doing everything for everybody.

So, now, let’s talk about audiology and what’s happening with this area of health care. In lots of parts of the world, everything that is not essential is being cancelled. Audiology is not an essential area of health care, and by essential, I mean an emergency. So, lots of clinics and departments of hospitals are cancelling appointments altogether. Definitely lots of students that I’ve been talking to, are saying that the things they are doing like observing, has been cancelled indefinitely. And all this indefinitely stuff, where schools are closed until whenever (we don’t know) and the fact that this doesn’t have an expiration is one of the things that keeps us all in the state of uncertainty and the unknown.

I had a really beautiful moment of clarity when I was talking to my three-year old. She asked me, ‘When am I going back to Kindergarten? I want to go back.” She had made something out of playdough and wanted to show her teacher. So, she said, “When are we going back to school? We didn’t go yesterday or today, am I going tomorrow?” I answered, “No, we’re not going tomorrow and won’t be going for the rest of the week. And actually, we don’t know when you will be going back. But, for right now we are staying happy and healthy at home.” She didn’t buy it. She started crying. So, I sat with her and instead of trying to move it along and go to the next activity, I sat with her and looked at her project and said, “This is really beautiful and I understand that you want to show it to your teacher, and that you don’t know when you’re going back. That’s really scary and confusing. You usually go almost every single day and you didn’t go on Sunday (in Israel we have school on Sunday), and you didn’t go today.”

It was already her second day of school that she missed. I sat with her and said, “It’s really hard not to know, it’s really confusing. I feel it too. I don’t know if I’m going back to work or not. I don’t know what’s going to happen with a birthday party with another kid (in her class) that might be cancelled.” She saw that I understood her and she saw that I felt her. I realized that dealing with kids and parenting, really has to be like a mirror for ourselves. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to feel uncertain. It’s an uncertain time. We are living through uncertainty right now.

The truth is we are always living in uncertainty. We just have all these senses of security that we build up around ourselves. But, actually no one really knows anything, ever. So, that’s one of the big messages I wanted to share with you today. That it’s really okay and reasonable to feel anxious, to be confused, to now know what’s going to happen. To give each other the permission, like my daughter and I did, in a way that she gave me that permission when I had to address for her that we don’t know when we are going back to school. But, we took a picture of the playdough creation and sent it to her teacher. With the internet and WhatsApp, we are going to find ways to deal and cope and stay connected because those are the things that are for sure going to get us through this.

On a side note, I have been hugely in awe and grateful, so much gratitude has come out to be able to spend time with my kids this way. I’m on day two, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve been reading with them, watching, cooking and cleaning with them and doing a lot of daily things together. It’s really nice to get to know them. They are super delightful, hahaha. Also, to get a big sense of appreciation for what their teachers do. We’re in the work for homeschooling moms.

So, we did our check-in. We are now going to talk a little about the listening checks. So, if you have a child at home who has hearing aids or cochlear implants, or if you are using an FM system, or any device like that, it’s a good idea to do a daily listening check. Usually, in school the teacher would be doing this or the speech therapist or whoever is working with your child, putting the device on in the morning. So, an easy listening check is to actually just take the hearing aid and cup it in your hand, where you are kind of creating a feedback. If you cup it and you could hear the squealing when you close the battery door, that is telling you that the battery is fresh, that the hearing aid is in listening scope, which looks like a stethoscope. You put it on your ear and there is a tube attached to the end.

Now, you might not know if you have one of these. This is a big tip that I also have for the CI (Cochlear Implant) families. Go back and look in that big knapsack or suitcase that came when you got the hearing aids. Sometimes, you have little spare parts or other little things in that bag that you haven’t looked at in a while. Go see what you have in there. You might have a listening check; you might have spare parts. For cochlear implants, there is usually an extra cable or coil. Sometimes, especially if you are in the beginning of the journey and you haven’t figured out everything that’s in the boxes, so check it out. Go through the box. If you have any questions, feel free to send me pictures or a screenshot of your different devices so that you can find out what are all those mystery additional accessories in your box and if they can be of use to you.

So, starting the day out with a physical listening check to make sure the devices are working. If you have cochlear implants, if you have flashing lights, you probably are more familiar knowing if they are working. Then you can also do a functional listening check, to see if your child is responding to the sounds that you are trying to capture, whether it’s a hearing aid, cochlear implant or with the FM device. You can start singing a song from behind the child, it doesn’t have to be “1,2,3 check”. It’s very formal. It can be a song, or calling their name, banging on the door (maybe not so hard, more like a gentle tap), or play with a noisy toy, just to see if you are getting a reaction and you’ll see if the device is in good, working order. That’s a good idea to start the day like that. To keep them in sound all day, if that’s the communication mode that you’re going with.

So, we’re going to talk a little bit about what to do with your kids that can promote and advance their auditory development, their language and listening and speech. These are great for this isolation period that we are all going through. They are super fun and low pressured. It’s a time to connect with our kids, a time where we slow down and be there for them and for each other. Scheduling and the structure of kids that go to therapies and such, is going to change. It doesn’t just shut down and now we are in disaster zone. Thankfully, we are not in a huge crisis, disaster zone. We are in an uncertain phase, things are shutting down, maybe people will work from home. Maybe you will do teletherapy. There is so much uncertainty.

So, here are some ideas.

Read, read, read and read some more. Just take down the whole shelf of books, put them down and start one after the other. Even if you are not actually reading each book, formally cover to cover. Just create reading time as an additional activity, not only to read one book a day at bedtime. There are places where structure is right. It can also be super fun to make book time available during playtime with toys. Even learning to flip pages is an early, pre-literacy skill, even if it’s upside down and backwards. They are learning the concept of what the book does. That’s why you even have the baby books that are plush material, it introduces the concept of books, flipping pages, pictures, a story that begins at one end and finishes at the other. Books as toys, or props you might say, is already an excellent toy for our younger kiddos.

Then, of course, reading the actual stories is a plus in listening and auditory development activity and it can also really connect you to your child. When there is reading time and at this point, we won’t be using screens, and we will be doing coloring. I like to do two activities at the same time. Markers and papers are out, and books are out. I’ll start reading and you color. At one point, they will be interested and come over to you and read. It shouldn’t be strict. It will be incidental. It’ll be incidental learning on purpose. We want to make opportunities for that incidental learning to go down. With older kids, I just mean not babies, so probably with a 18-24-month old, you can start doing questions that go with what’s happening in the book. For example, “Where’s the doggie? Oh, here’s the doggie.” The key is to also answer the questions. It’s not a quiz or test and you’re not putting them on the spot. A lot of modeling things like, here’s the sky, this dog is sitting, etc. Just kind of narrating the pictures without reading the book is very valuable and can move you forward. That is my big topic on books.

Next, I want to talk about a dance party time. Dance parties are one of our favorite activities we do here. Put on any source of music and there are so many. We have a little keyboard that plays a bunch of songs. So, if you have a musical toy like that, that’s gold. But you can even do it with maracas, or a tambourine, with shakers or a toy that makes noise. Anything that makes noise is a music time toy. Put on a playlist from Spotify or open a YouTube video. But once we take out those devices, it goes a little bit sideways. All they notice are the screens and want to watch. It’s like a magnet for little eyes. Certainly, doing any kind of related activity is advancing auditory skills. 

One idea is to play freeze dance. When the music is on, everyone dances. When you turn off the music, everyone needs to freeze. Freeze dance is great for an auditory activity because it is teaching a child to attend to the sound, like to pay attention. It’s a very important early auditory skill. It’s a detection skill. Am I paying attention and detecting if a sound is present or not? This game can give us some of that.

We can also do other kinds of listening games where the child has to fill in the rest of the song, fill in the next words. It can become hysterical. We want it to be fun, exciting and engaging. So, if your child knows the words to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” because you sing it to them a million times a day, you start singing and change the word “Star” to “Ball”. Some kids will start laughing hysterically because you made it funny and different.  Making intentional mistakes but showing that you are joking, you changed your intonation, you changed your volume, you run off key, or you open your eyes. You really over exaggerate and then they know it’s a joke and it becomes hysterical.

This is a good idea also because it keeps a child anticipating your next mistake because you will be doing that throughout your little game session. With songs and music, you can do a lot of fun auditory activities.

For auditory, in terms of speech and language, we can do things that are super fun in the house, like a scavenger hunt, but you’ll be looking for a certain sound. Let’s say you are looking for the sound, “mmmm”, you walk around the house and look for things that are making that sound. You go into the kitchen and find the muffin tin, because it starts with “m”. You can find a mat on the floor and that starts with “m”. Definitely be in touch with your speech therapist or whoever you have been working with, to know which sounds or specific skills that they need to work on, depending on their level and their age. It’s a good idea to know what the goals are so you can start addressing them.

Again, this entire thing is meant to be fun and loose and connective because the kids will pick up on your energy, they pick up on what we are feeling. That was one of the things that I shared on Instagram that was crazy amazing from the World Health Organization that put out this guide about mental health. They were talking about mental health for health care workers, for families and caregivers, of people who get sick with Covid19. Then there was a section for parents. So, I said, “WHO (World Health Organization) you are doing a great job.” One of the things that they put out there was that we really must explain things to our children and not just let them pick up all these swirls about Corona and how there won’t be school and how we’ll be home with our kids…

Can you imagine this child hearing all this messaging that your parents are going to be home stuck with you? I understand there are challenges, we are all going through them and it’s not easy. But we have to address them. That’s why we are here. Be careful with our language and what the children will pick up from us. They are going to see our reactions and how we are managing with this and that’s how they are going to manage it. So, it’s really important that we take care of ourselves, do your own check-in that we spoke about, and make it easy and fun and relaxed as much as you can, try to keep your kids in sound. I’m here for you. I’m happy to hear from you about more ideas and games. It’s super fun and nice to hear from all of you because there is only so much that we can come up with on our own. It’s only day 2 and 3, let’s see what happens on Day 17, with no more ideas. I can’t look at playdough ever again, hahaha.

I just want to leave you with a couple of episodes from the podcast that I want you to check out if you haven’t already. Episode 29 was all about parent’s intuition and I think at this time we really have to come back and trust ourselves. Trust our intuition and our ability to know what’s right for ourselves and for our families. Should we go out or stay in? Should we go to the park or have play dates? A lot of people are asking these questions about social isolation. See how it feels for you. See how it affects you and your mental health and your ability to cope. If you must get fresh air, weigh that against how many people you will see outside. It depends on the type of environment you live in. Are you in a suburb or in the middle of a super crowded city? You’ve got to ask yourself these questions and tune into your intuition. So, check out episode 29, All About Intuition. I think it was an excellent episode that can give you a lot at this time.

The second episode I want you to listen to is Episode 31, All About Connecting with our children with Mama Manon, who is the empowered parenting trauma informed coach who I really love learning from and she joined us on the podcast. So, if you are looking for some more ideas and encouragement, check out 29 and 31 and any episode that is interesting for you, the All About Audiology podcast is there for you. More episodes are coming soon! I’m so grateful that you joined me. If you would like to be in touch with me about any questions, working with me or consulting, or speaking to groups or anything else, you can reach out to me here on Facebook, Instagram or at allaboutaudiology.com. I hope you are well. I’m sending you so many well wishes. Thank you for sharing your ideas with me and checking in with me. See you soon!

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