My toddler is d/Deaf or hard of hearing and transitioning to bedtime is a struggle. What can I do?
It’s no secret that young children thrive on routine and predictability. Like most toddlers, children who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing benefit from clear communication and predictable transitions to get through daily routines, including sleep times. These transitions can include wake time and nap times, as well as at bedtime. Using visual cues to clearly communicate upcoming transitions is a helpful tool for all caregivers managing transitions with toddlers. Fortunately, there are numerous products on the market to establish signals or cues that are primarily visual and do not rely on sounds. Many parents have discovered the value of visual training clocks (visual timers) and lights to help signal bedtime, or any other transition. Some visual timers use something like a block that fills with color or something else concrete (a sand timer, for instance) to show the passage of time. This way, a young child who might not understand numbers on a clock can still understand the concept of the timer. Start a visual timer 5 or 10 minutes before it’s time to head to bed. If you use sign language with your child, you can also communicate in that way to prepare your toddler for upcoming transitions (for instance, “five minutes until naptime”). Communicating clearly with your child that bedtime (any transition) is coming soon is key, regardless of the way in which you communicate.
In the morning, try a good morning light to let your toddler know it’s ok to get out of bed in the morning. There are also vibration alarm clocks that can be placed on the wrist or under your child’s mattress if you need your child to wake up in the morning by a certain time.
Picture cards or visual schedules can also help guide toddlers through the steps in their routines. For example, a bedtime routine chart might show the steps of your child’s routine in pictures – such as pajamas, a toothbrush, a storybook, a light-switch, and finally a child lying in bed. Visual charts can also be helpful for the morning, to help your child get up and out the door on time. If dawdling is a problem, as it is for many toddlers, a visual timer can help immensely; especially if there is an incentive at the end to finish on time. For example, if your child is ready once the timer goes off, then they get to play with a favorite toy on the way to childcare.