Guiding Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Through the Coronavirus Shutdown

Luck, Love, and a Little Bit of Grace

By Karen L. Kritzer, Ph.D. and Chad E. Smith, Ph.D.

A child studying a computer with parent.

By March 31, 2020 a third of humankind was residing under lockdown conditions. By April 7th, 95% of all Americans were living under state-issued shelter-in-place orders. Quickly, we all learned what it meant to live under a “new normal.” While the Spring of 2020 has been challenging for everyone, for parents starting homebound education with their children the struggle has been real. For parents of children with special needs, particularly hearing loss where language may be impacted, the challenge has been almost insurmountable.  Working with teachers, coordinating learning activities from school, and communicating with children about various school topics all pose challenges for parents. 

However, where there is struggle, there is also resilience.  Over the past month, we have been conducting a survey to discover how parents of DHH children have been fairing during the shutdown.  In the process, we learned how creative and resourceful parents can be.  We discovered that 133 parents had sage advice to share. In the spirit of, “we’re in this together” here are 17 tips from parents to parents on guiding DHH children through the Coronavirus shutdown:

  1. Incorporate Physical Education into your daily routine.  Online workouts, dance parties, and Deaf Yoga videos are all available to help with this.
  2. Use your local library as a resource for curbside pickup and/or free online books.
  3. Take a break when needed.
  4. Schedule video chats with teachers and/or counselors. This can be helpful for parents and kids.
  5. Create a visual schedule and follow a regular routine but keep in mind that older kids and teens in particular may need this routine to be flexible.
  6. Check in with others regularly (i.e., other parents; Facebook groups). You need support!  This will help remind you that you are not in this alone.
  7. Be patient with yourself and your kids. Accept that it is okay if you are not teaching your child 5-7 hours a day. Everyone is going to be behind when school reopens.
  8. Ask for help and stand-up for the services your child needs. This is a great opportunity to model advocacy for your child: speak up.
  9. Stay connected and present.
  10. Remain optimistic and enjoy spending time with loved ones.
  11. Focus on the big stuff, let the rest slide.
  12. Connect with Deaf Mentors if you can.
  13. Let your child know that it is okay to feel mad or frustrated but also how to work through it.
  14. Involve your children in daily chores, housekeeping, and house management. “We’re in this together” means EVERYONE needs to help out.
  15. Try to spend a little bit of quality time with each child, every day.
  16. Balance education and fun
  17. Keep talking to your kids. Remember that EVERYTHING needs to be narrated for DHH kids.

For help keeping up with academics, meal planning, entertaining, and communicating with DHH children at home, parents have found the following resources useful:

General digital resources:

Websites Specifically for Children:

Apps Specifically for Children:

  • A to Z kids app               (App Store / Google Play)
  • Handsland on Amazon Prime
  • Highlights for Kids magazine (downloaded from
  • Khan academy               (App Store / Google Play)
  • My Signing Time by Rachel Coleman and the Treeschoolers Curriculum (App Store / Google Play)
  • Raz A-Z                             (App Store / Google Play)
  • SORA reading app        (App Store / Google Play)

These are challenging times we are living through right now. It is going to take some luck, a whole lot of love, and a little bit of grace to thrive through the few remaining weeks of the schoolyear and whatever the summer holds.  As several parents who completed our survey advised: remember that you are more capable than you think you are; take it day by day; focus on what you CAN do for your child; and just breathe.

These initial findings are from research conducted through a study at Kent State University and Texas Women’s University.