The summer, when kids are out of school and sometimes off on their own, is a time to think again about safety. We call after our kids to “be careful” as they go out the door, but our kids with hearing loss need more specific instructions and training to stay safe in the big and busy world out there.
Teach your kids these rules to travel by:
Keep your head up and looking around when walking in busy areas.
Hearing loss can affect the ability to locate where sounds are coming from – which is something hearing people rely on to detect cars and figure out where traffic is coming from on a busy street. Looking around with your eyes is an important way to compensate. When you are out together with your child, practice staying alert and looking for clues of where cars are coming from.
Check and double check that cars have stopped for you to cross at a crosswalk.
Remind your child not to assume that drivers will stop at a crosswalk, even though they should. Train your child to make eye contact with a driver to ensure that he or she sees your child before your child walks into the street.
Stay as far from the road as possible.
Especially if there is not a good sidewalk, make sure your child knows to keep to the farthest area from the street. A child with hearing loss may not hear a driver tap on the horn to let the walkers know to get out of the way.
Watch out for cars in parking lots and at driveways.
Cars can be coming from unpredictable directions in busy parking lots. Teach your kids to walk in marked walkways in the parking lot, if there are, and to watch constantly for cars pulling in and out of parking spots. Driveways can also be hazardous if kids are walking on a sidewalk. Demonstrate to kids how to watch for cars pulling out of their driveways.
Encourage kids to walk in pairs.
Having a friend to walk with can help improve the safety of your child with hearing loss. When it comes to safety: two heads are better than one.
When out at night, make sure kids wear reflective clothing.
If its harder for our kids to hear the cars coming, make sure it is easier for the drivers to see them. Wearing reflective material can help our kids be noticed when out at night.
Talk to your kids about road safety issues when they come up.
Keep this topic of conversation at the top of your list. When you are driving and you see kids doing something safe or dangerous, comment on the situation and drive the lesson home to your child. This will help keep awareness even for older kids who walk on their own.
Here are some more resources on pedestrian safety: