Children’s yoga has many benefits for kids including, better concentration, increased physical activity, improved relationships with peers and stress management.
However, all of the things we know about teaching yoga have been focused on those with natural hearing. What about children with hearing loss?
Here are three things you need to know about hearing loss:
- Hearing loss is different for everyone. There are many types and degrees of hearing loss, making abilities and interventions different for each individual affected by hearing loss.
- Hearing aids and implants do not restore hearing loss. Hearing aids and implants serve as a way to amplify sound but they do not make sounds clearer or fix the parts of the ear affected by hearing loss.
- Children with hearing loss face many challenges in building positive relationships, communication, social-emotional development, behavioural regulation, and academic development- more so than children with natural hearing- because of their reduced ability to overhear appropriate conversations and their need for explicit information and instructions on topics such as emotions and behaviour.
There is every reason to believe that yoga and mindfulness for children with hearing loss will have the same outcomes as for children with natural hearing. However, the audiological differences must be considered when teaching. Here are some tips for helping you teach yoga and mindfulness to children with hearing loss!
1. Voice Basics
Speak slowly and clearly, but normally. Don’t yell or mumble. Speak in a way that you would speak to someone who does not have hearing loss.
If you need to repeat yourself in class, repeat EXACTLY what you previously said. Chances are the children caught some of what you said and only need you to repeat yourself to fill in a few of the gaps. If you change the wording or structure of your previous statement, the children have to “start over” in hearing and understanding you.
2. Make Sure Everyone Can See You
Children tend to cluster together or around you, especially when they are being active. But crowding can make it so that other children cannot see you and is dangerous for practicing yoga poses. Making sure everyone can see you also makes it easier for the children with hearing loss to lip-read, as well as helps them to hear you better, since the sound waves of your voice are facing them directly. Also, having a good light makes it easier for the children to lip-read so try to place yourself where there are no shadows crossing your face.
**It is important to note that not all children with hearing loss can lip-read. Lip-reading is a skill that is learned over time and dependent on many factors including age at which the child received their hearing aid/implant, whether lip-reading is practiced at home or school, and type and degree of hearing loss. Further, even if a child does know how to lip-read, during activities such as a yoga class in which you are always moving and not always facing your children, lip-reading becomes impossible. When you can, be in a position in which your children can lip-read. Just know that lip-reading isn't always a factor.
Music is so much fun and can be used for some fun yoga games! But using music in a yoga class for children with hearing loss must be done correctly because it can interfere with hearing aids and implants. I always have the music playing in the room before my children arrive to class. If the music is playing when the children come into your class, it will become white noise as they settle into the environment. But if you turn on the music after the children have settled into the environment, it will be distracting and take away from the practice- unless you are playing a game where turning the music on during class is intentional (i.e. Yoga Statues).
Another way to incorporate music is to teach the yoga sequence first, make sure the children know it (they don't need to know it 100%, just enough so that they don’t need to hear you), and then incorporate music along with the postures. This way, the children are only focusing on one thing at a time before you combine them.
4. Visual Cues & Gestures
Using visual cues and gestures is a very simple way to help children with hearing loss understand what you are saying by putting things into context. This gets more complicated when practicing yoga but explaining the pose with gestures before moving into it or showing children yourself will help them to understand what to do. For example, if you want to ask children to rest the crown of their heads on the floor, touch the crown of your head as you explain this or just do it. Children will always follow what you are doing.
5. Sensory Deprivation
Sensory deprivation is the intentional reduction or removal of stimuli for one or more of the five senses. While some types of sensory deprivation can be beneficial an overload of sensory deprivation can lead to increased anxiety. One type of sensory deprivation that is beneficial is closing your eyes during Savasana. However, this can create a lot of anxiety for those with hearing loss because, since they have already lost the hearing sensation, closing the eyes creates an overload of sensory deprivation.
• Ensure children that they are safe: This can be done by using a guided imagery which includes words such as “safe”, “comfortable”, and “relaxed”. This can also be done by asking children to bring a teddy or blanket to yoga class to help them feel more comfortable.
• Use guided imagery. The sound of your voice will let the children know that you are there with them, that someone is “awake” and watching over them.
• Never make your children close their eyes: When those of us with natural hearing close our eyes, our ears pick-up sounds around us and send signals to our brains, telling us what is going on. For instance, if you hear the fire alarm go off, that sound travels to your brain, telling you that something is wrong, and your body reacts (i.e. you wake up). This is not the case for those with hearing loss, even with the use of hearing aids and implants. Thus, children with hearing loss have to visually check their surroundings. Encourage your children to try closing their eyes, ensuring them that you will be there the entire time. But if your children are more comfortable keeping their eyes open, let them.
6. Listening Fatigue
Hearing loss is exhausting because listening takes a lot of energy and effort, even with hearing aids and implants. However, there are things you can do help minimize listening fatigue:
• Limit your instructions: Try to keep things simple, explain a lot in as little words as possible. Once children become accustomed to practicing, it will be easier to say less because children will be familiar with the practices.
• Shake out the sillies: I always get my children to “shake it off”, particularly when they are full of energy and not focusing on what we are doing. Shaking out the sillies will help children to redirect their energy and focus on what you are doing as a class.
• Have longer Savasana: For children with hearing loss, Savasana can be particularly helpful in reducing “brain noise” and promoting relaxation and restoration of the mind and body, resulting in reduced listening fatigue and increased energy.
7. Give Your Children Options!
• Savasana: I always tell my children that they can lay on their backs, bellies, or side for Savasana. For children with hearing loss, lying in certain positions may make it easier for them to visually check their surroundings if they become anxious or uncomfortable.
• Removing hearing aids or implants during Savasana: Sometimes children will remove these on their own but usually they will not. Tell children that they can remove their hearing aids and implants IF THEY WISH. I also encourage children to try removing their aids and implants just to see how they feel about it, allowing them to explore their options while also giving them autonomy over decision-making.
*Originally published in Cosmic Kids Blog Post
Megan Johnson holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Education, and is a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor for both children and adults. Megan is also the founder of Learning Lotuses, a blog and website aimed at bringing social-emotional learning to the education system through yoga and mindfulness practices.
You can obtain a full copy of Teaching Yoga & Mindfulness to Children with Hearing Loss on Megan’s website.